Sportsnet and EA Sports team up on branded content series

It's the first time EA Sports has worked with the network in an effort to promote its new game.

If someone were asked to sum up the embodiment of modern hockey with only one name, it’s very likely that name would be “Ovi.”

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, known affectionately to fans as Ovi, has been with the NHL for 15 years. In that time, he’s amassed more than 1,200 points and 706 goals. This past season alone, Ovechkin was well on track to surpass 50 goals prior to the March shutdown – which would mark the ninth time in his pro career he’s surpassed that milestone. His records also include most goals and most points by a Russian-born player, most career OT goals and most consecutive 30-goal seasons.

Now, Ovechkin is adding a new honour to his legacy, landing on the cover of EA Sports’ new NHL Game, NHL21.

The big reveal of which player graces the cover is always a big event for hockey fans and gamers alike; and to mark the unveiling of Ovechkin on this year’s cover, EA Sports paired with Sportsnet for the first time to create a custom branded content program that aims to promote the game and Ovechkin’s legacy.

The program began with a “reveal show” on Sportsnet online, which was produced by the network and includes highlights from both Ovechkin’s real, on-ice games and those in the game. The show also features various younger NHL superstars that Ovechkin has inspired, such as the Leafs’ Auston Matthews and the Avs’ Nathan MacKinnon. The content will be repurposed and used globally by EA Sports, as well as promoted across NHL channels, Ovechkin’s social accounts and CCM’s channels, as well as NBC’s channels in the U.S.

As for long-form content, Sportsnet is also producing an original three-episode mini documentary series, From Alex to Ovi, which shows Ovechkin’s journey from his draft in 2004 to his current legend status. The series will run across, Sportsnet’s YouTube channel and on-demand on SVOD service SN Now. EA will also distribute the series with its partners.

The first episode was originally scheduled to debut Aug. 28, but given the recent three-day wildcat strike from players on various sports leagues late last week, that was pre-empted. The new date for the premiere has yet to be finalized, but a representative for Sportsnet tells MiC it will likely premiere this or next week, with “early September” being the overall goal. The second and third episodes will be released Sept. 19 and 29, closer to the product launch, scheduled for early October.

It’s the first time EA has worked with Sportsnet to produce custom content and the first time Sportsnet has produced a program around the NHL series of video games. EA worked directly with Sportsnet and not through a media agency, and the content was co-produced with Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the production arm of the Washington Capitals organization.

There will be an associated broadcast and digital buy from Sportsnet to accompany the series. Some of the dollars are being deployed now to promote the series, and some will be applied later in October to promote the release of the new game.