Tired of seeing GEICO commercials during NHL games? It looks like they aren’t going away anytime soon. The Sports Business Journal reports that a deal is near for GEICO to continue its partnership with the NHL. GEICO first became a league sponsor in 2010 during the Winter Classic. That deal was later extended to a full partnership for the 2010-11 season.
The GEICO near renewal comes a few weeks after Labatt Canada lost their court case over NHL sponsorship. The league has been getting plenty of attention from business publications and websites this month. Forbes looked at how the league is trying to maintain momentum this season. Reuters ran a story looking at how the NHL could benefit from a long lockout in the NBA . The Reuters article also had this gem of a quote which will surely irritate European hockey fans –
The NHL will also continue to focus on expanding its global brand launching seven new official websites in Czech, Finnish, French, German, Russian, Slovak and Swedish languages.
“Europe is where we see a huge opportunity going forward,” said Collins. “I think there is still a lot of room for growth in North America but I think in Europe, hockey is an important game, the NHL is a great brand.”
Yes, that’s every European NHL fan’s best friend, COO John Collins. Unfortunately, nobody ever asks Collins why the league’s new European broadcasting deal has been such a bust.
Finally, The Big Lead has an interview with NHL Executive VP Brian Jennings. Jennings goes into some detail about the league’s marketing plans for this season. Once again, Europe is brought up and just like the Collins interview, nobody asks about the TV debacle. Here’s a quote from Jennings responding to a question about hockey being a global sport and how the league is making fans and marketers associate with pro hockey with the NHL-
That is important to us. And we don’t take for granted that we have teams and a long history in Canada. When you realize that 28% of our players come from overseas, that is an important way for us to engage with those fans. This season, we have six foreign-language Web sites. They will speak specifically to the customization in the respective native languages that will enable fans to follow the players they want to follow, as well as the broader game.
With the digital arsenal now available to us, there are so many opportunities to shorten the path to connect with fans in real and meaningful ways. When you look at Europe, you have a time-shifted audience, and in many ways an access-constrained audience in getting your product. Many times, our games are being shown there in the middle of the night. So if we give them condensed 12-minute versions of games that are live premium, they can get their hockey fix.
Judging by that quote, it’s clear the league sees digital as its way to grow across the pond. Unfortunately, there are some issues with GCL especially with data caps and availability. I will say it is a positive to finally see some Euro-focused websites. I could never figure out why the league didn’t do that before. I have to give them credit for doing that.