The NHL drops the puck on a new season

The league's Face-Off hockey festival will feature bands, contests and the season's first games on large screens in Yonge-Dundas Square as part of the launch of the season and a new ad campaign.

The NHL is marking the start of the new season with a celebratory event in Yonge-Dundas Square (featuring a heavy lineup of sponsors) and launching a new ad campaign.

Running until mid-November, the ‘Questions Will Become Answers’ campaign started Oct. 1 with TV spots on CBC, TSN, the NHL Network and regional broadcast carriers such as Rogers Sportsnet. The spots will also be featured online on and the NHL Facebook and Twitter pages. There will also be digital banners on and team sites.

The spots feature players doing off-season training while analysts provide commentary, raising questions about the upcoming season, Brian Jennings, executive VP of Marketing, NHL, tells MiC.

‘The beginning of the year is full of hope and anticipation and excitement about the season,’ he says. ‘We try to figure out a way to capture that excitement, and this year what we wanted to do was…try to showcase their determination. All those questions that are asked at the beginning of the year are ultimately answered.’

The NHL worked on the creative in-house with consultation from Young & Rubicam, and handled its own media buy.

This week, the campaign comes alive with the free-for-the-public NHL Face-Off in Toronto. Taking place on Oct. 7, the first day of the NHL season, the event at Yonge-Dundas Square will feature rock bands Hedley, Down With Webster and Hey Rosetta! The Toronto-Montreal season opener will play on the digital screens (as will the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia opener) and fans can test their skills in a slapshot cage or on a synthetic ice pad.

SDI Marketing was the experiential agency and Endeavour handled the media buy for NHL Face-Off. Both are based in Toronto.

Sponsors on board with activations for NHL Face-Off include BlackBerry, with street teams handing out swag and letting fans message their favourite team via BBM; Bridgestone, with a branded shootout skills competition; and Canadian Tire, with a celeb green screen, in which fans can get their photo taken ‘with’ star player Jonathan Toews.

Other sponsors include EA Sports, Honda, Bud Light, Scotiabank, Visa XM Satellite Radio and Pepsi, whose activation includes a clothes dryer set up to replicate Sidney Crosby’s childhood practice routine (which saw him shooting pucks into the household appliance) and free bacon giveaways. The bacon ties to the in-market campaign for low-calorie Pepsi Max, which features the tagline ‘save the calories for bacon.’