When NEI announced its corporate sponsorship with the Washington Capitals one month ago, we knew that our advertising neighbors on the dasher at Verizon Center would be Papa Johns and Geico. Naturally, we were curious to know what other advertisers were trying to reach hockey fans across the league via this medium. As the NHL doesn't publicly provide this information, we dutifully watched hockey games in all thirty National Hockey League arenas (24 in the U.S. and a half dozen in Canada) in order to identify some of these advertisers. (Tough gig, eh?)
The findings below are admittedly inexact; they represent a snapshot in time, taken at individual games over several weeks. More caveats:
- Only dasherboard ads were tracked.
- Digital dasherboard ads with multiple advertisers were not included.
- The NHL has 44 ad positions available at each rink - only ads that were visible via the television camera at center ice were tracked. (Positions #40 - #21, left-to-right on a TV screen.)
- Team category exclusivity agreements with advertisers are not known.
The top 10 advertiser categories:
- Alcohol-Malt Beverage
- Consumer Services
- Consumer Goods
- Bud Light (20 arenas)
- State Farm (17)
- Geico (16)
- Coca-Cola Zero/Coke Zero (8)
- Tim Hortons (8)
- Air Canada (7)
- AT&T (7)
- Molson (7)
- Toyota (7)
- Verizon (7)
- With franchise ownership in flux, the Phoenix Coyotes, unsurprisingly, lead the league in house ads.
- State Farm is a +1 over Geico. The insurance companies are going head-to-head in nine markets: Atlanta, Buffalo, Dallas, Long Island, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.
- There are coffee/doughnut wars brewing in New York state: Tim Hortons and Dunkin' Donuts are both fighting for cruller consumers in Madison Square Garden and HSBC Arena.
- Searching for a geographical explanation for this one: Coca-Cola appears to have re-branded its calorie-free version, now marketing it nationally as Coca-Cola Zero. But not in Atlanta, Detroit, NYC and LA, where it remains Coke Zero.
- The one-market advertiser that seems completely random and a head-scratcher at first, but may be inspired: Starkist Tuna advertising in Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena. (Penguins eat tuna?)
- The one-market advertiser that seems completely random and remains a head-scratcher: Lemonhead candies as a corporate sponsor of the Chicago Blackhawks. Yes, the manufacturer, Ferrara Pan, is a Chicago-based company, but one would think they would've chosen a more appropriate candy of theirs to market to a hockey audience. Say, Jaw Busters?
[Updated: November 5, 2009]