NHL introduces four new in-ice ad placements

Clubs are already in talks with sponsors to sell the spots, which will go live at the beginning of the 2018-19 season.

Keith Wachtel says it’ll be a long time before the NHL considers placing advertising on jerseys – even though brands are clamouring for more opportunities to activate alongside their favourite hockey clubs.

The league’s CRO told MiC that the league is looking at ways to satisfy the needs of advertiser while bringing in more revenue for the clubs. “We know the NBA has done the jersey ads… we’re not quite ready to take that step yet because we consider our jerseys to be one of the most historic parts of the sport.”

However, the league has announced it will add four new in-ice positions. The spots will appear below the goal-line, adjacent to the goalie trapezoid (two per side). They will be smaller than those at centre ice. The placements were tested in China and then again at the 2018 All-Star game.

Wachtel said adding the new spots was necessary on a demand basis alone. “Particularly in Canada, where clubs have been extremely successful in Canadian brands, we’ve just run out of inventory. You can have as many partners as you want, but up until this point there were only four in-ice positions, which are really your most valuable positions outside of naming rights.”

He said other new efforts to add inventory were mostly in-facility assets, such as Jumbotron sponsorships, PA announcements and mezzanine activations. But those were missing one crucial element: “If you’re a marketer, you want to have visible exposure in front of a camera,” he said.

The new spots will go live at the start of the 2018-19 hockey season. Individual clubs will be responsible for the sale of the eight positions during the pre-season and regular season. During the playoffs, the NHL will take control of the assets, selling to only four advertisers for the duration of the playoffs. Wachtel said because of the global popularity of the playoffs, the sales during the post-season will be to global marketers. The clubs will retain current centre in-ice positions.

Wachtel added that there was little, if any, negative feedback from fans during the test period. “It didn’t take away from the existing signage, it didn’t clutter the environment. I think we have a very impactful piece of real-estate going on.”

According to Wachtel, clubs are currently in talks with existing partners and new partners to get the in-ice spots filled for the upcoming pre-season.