Wednesday, November 01, 2006

NHL Leads the Way with Alternative Marketing Strategies for the Evolving Sports-Media Market

Tape-Delayed Hockey Games Now (Legally) Available Online

It's been announced that the NHL has signed a multi-year video content deal with Google Video. The NHL will contribute full-length regular season games to Google Video, which will make the games available for purchase online. In addition to the regular season games, select “classic” NHL games will also be offered. The promotion will begin with a free two week trial, and following this, games will be available for $2.99 each (SportsBusiness Journal, 11/1/06).


The NHL decided to make this move after attempting a test run of similar proportions during the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last year, the NHL made condensed playoff games available for purchase on Apple's i-Tunes store. With the positive results, the NHL has decided to expand this marketing strategy, offering full games online. As part of this deal, Google is set to tailor a portion of the video download store exclusive to official NHL content. This section will also incorporate user-generated videos into its webspace, making the site user-friendly and interactive.

“This is obviously an on-demand world where people want what they want, when they want it, and where they want it,” said NHL Interactive CyberEnterprises President Keith Ritter. “Google is a place where we definitely need to be.” With poor television ratings across the nation, and a decrease in ticket sales, the NHL has maintained a strong effort to bring hockey to both hardcore fans and potential fans using alternative marketing and promotion methods. Among these methods are: the opening of an NHL retail store on sixth avenue & 47th street In N.Y, the launch of the social-networking NHL Connect, the creation of an NHL women's clothing line, and a dramatically redesigned league Web site. The NHL understands that, although fans may not be watching the live games on television, there is still a demand for the product, and there are methods of reaching potential fans via alternative marketing strategies.

NHL Connect is a social-networking site that will be linked with NHL.com. The site will allow fans to make personalized profile pages (similar to myspace.com) which include podcasts, photos, and links to news articles. Fans can connect with each other and share ideas, thoughts, or even competition through NHL Fantasy Hockey games. The newly revamped NHL.com emphasizes fantasy gaming and showcasing of individual superstar players. Through interviewing each of the other four American major league sports on their Web strategies, the NHL designed a model "aimed at best serving both the NHL and its fans.”

With increasing efforts to offer live streaming of games online, the NHL is taking large steps towards increasing its overall fan base through non-traditional marketing strategies. The league is using new media to increase the exposure of its sport, all while making sure to give fans what they want, when they want it. The results of these strategies may not be evident immediately, however one can be sure that the NHL is using innovative new technology to reach fans that may not come to the game or watch it on television. Time will tell if the effort was worth it.

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