NHL broadcasters prepare for puck drop

Sportsnet, TSN and CBC talk to MiC about their post-lockout media strategies to promote the 2013 NHL season.
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The NHL lockout may seem in many ways like a memory, and broadcasters are hoping to put it further in the rearview mirror with campaigns promoting the start of the new season on Saturday.

MiC spoke to Sportsnet, TSN and the CBC about how they’re trying to lure audiences back to Canada’s game, and how the lockout impacted their marketing strategies.

CBC: Hockey is Back

The 2013 hockey season is a big one for the CBC, as it rings in the 60th anniversary of Hockey Night in Canada.

To this end, the pubcaster has launched a multi-faceted campaign that began last Sunday, following the ratification of the agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA, with the declaration across its assets that hockey is back.

Created in-house, with media by M2 Universal, the campaign leverages the CBC’s internal assets, including TV, radio and digital and is promoting multiple messages. Starting Monday, the broadcaster focused its on-air marketing on Saturday’s season opener and its lineup of three games. Wednesday saw it launch an official countdown to the start of the season on its website. Meanwhile, it introduced and promoted the HNIC team Thursday.

The CBC has also leveraged external media, including print spots in national publications and in Metro advertising the HNIC season schedule, as well as digital and OOH ads targeted at specific NHL regional markets.

Additionally, the pubcaster is using experiential events, such as its Hockey Day in Canada on Feb. 9. The event is happening in Peterbourough this year and features a full day of hockey-related events between the three back-to-back NHL games. More details will be revealed by the pubcaster as the date gets closer.

Bridget Hoffer, executive director, communications, marketing and brand, CBC, says that the CBC would have focused its marketing heavily on promoting the start of the season regardless of the lockout.

New this season, however, is the second screen experience app, which Hoffer says is part of the CBC’s strategy to build an interactive community around HNIC and hockey more generally.

The app allows users to log in during the game and interact and compete with fellow viewers by predicting how teams and players will perform. Viewers can earn points towards weekly prizes, as well as a grand prize at the end of the season.

Sportsnet: We Love Hockey

In response to the lockout, Rogers-owned Sportsnet got a head start on its campaign to keep fans interested in the NHL by launching the Facebook-based “We Love Hockey” petition that was eventually sent off to the NHL and NHLPA. Sportsnet then took its campaign a step further with a flash mob that involved an impromptu hockey game at the Yorkdale Mall in Toronto.

As the season draws nearer, Paul Brousseau, senior director of marketing, Sportsnet, tells MiC that the channel will continue its heavy multimedia marketing campaign supporting the return of the NHL.

“The longer the lockout lasted, the more we felt we were going to need to re-engage fans. What we were seeing was a lot of fan frustration and apathy,” he says.

The campaign, created in-house by the Sportsnet team, focuses heavily on radio and TV spots across Rogers Media properties, and aims to sell the Sportsnet brand as a home for hockey.

“When you see the hits, the goals and the fans cheering in something as basic as a 30-second TV commercial, that’s what gets the pulse racing,” says Brousseau of the insight behind the media strategy.

Brousseau adds that, because of the lockout, Sportsnet has focused more heavily on its hockey marketing campaign to make sure that fans will return to watch the game.

“We believe that fans will come back and come back right away, but there was a lot of frustration among fans, so it was strategically important for us to put some extra emphasis on promoting the league,” he says.

TSN: Game On

With puck drop now only a day away, TSN has officially declared “Game On” and launched its own campaign to lure fans back to the NHL.

Created in-house and targeted at TSN’s hockey audience of adults 25 to 54, the Bell Media-owned property’s campaign is leveraging Bell’s TV, radio and digital assets, as well as its own assets to promote the return of hockey.

The campaign also heavily features in-show promotions, using promo boards, lower thirds and integrated content on shows like Sportscentre, That’s Hockey and Off the Record. This week, the network has run special “Game On” programming, including specials on the league’s top 50 players, and previews of the upcoming season.

The sports specialty has also leveraged social media, using the hashtag #GameOn.

Nathalie Cook, VP, integrated marketing and partnerships, TSN, says the lockout caused TSN to focus solely on internal marketing.

“With the quick turnaround and what was available in the marketplace we decided to forgo an external spend and leverage the buzz that we knew we had with both hockey and TSN fans,” she says.