Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Lots Of Logos

After spending all day coaching in the heat and sun, I'm a little spent. That doesn't mean I won't post anything here, though. Like the picture to the left, however, I find myself at a roadblock as I work on the second of two summer projects. I'm researching the advertising used on boards around the NHL, and it seems that I'm at the media's mercy in that television broadcasts are always done from the same side of the ice every game, and photographers are stuck in their pre-defined locations by the team. That means that one side of the boards is a lot harder to research thanks to having very few images and video with which to work.

There are some advertisements that never change in all of the arenas I've been looking at thanks to league-wide deals with these various vendors. These vendors seemingly have their advertisements in the same spot in every arena, so plotting these ads on the boards have been easy. However, it wasn't always this easy for advertisers or the league.

Ads first appeared on boards around the NHL in 1980. However, not all teams took advantage of this revenue stream immediately. The NHL passed a ruling to allow teams to allow advertising on the boards surrounding the ice in 1978-79, and the first ads began appearing in 1980. But they were not the first boards to be adorned with a corporate message. The first ads on boards appeared in 1972 when Team Canada and the Soviet Union went to battle in the Summit Series.

Gillette, looking to build brand awareness in 1972, agreed to pay about $10,000 to place a five-metre-wide ad on the boards at centre ice in the Moscow arena to help promote their newest razor product, the Trac 2. With more than 10 million viewers watching Game Eight in Canada, Gillette's "product placement" was one of the more widely-seen advertisements at the time. And it has been viewed as one of the most intelligent advertisements in sports advertising history.

With the NHL realizing that this revenue stream could be potentially lucrative, they pushed ahead in 1978-79 to allow companies to place advertisements on their white boards. The Minnesota North Stars were the first NHL team to jump aboard the money train when they sold pairs of spots on their boards for $3000 per pair.

The hockey purists, however, didn't approve as this invasion of corporate advertisements was seen as a "selling out" of the game. In 1980, CBS televised an NHL game from Madison Square Garden where they refused to show any ads on the boards. Instead of focusing on the players near the boards, the cameras shifted to the players skates where CBS gambled that the puck would be near the skates. CBS' view was that they should be able to capitalize on the advertising on the boards since they were broadcasting that advertising.

There has been some regulation on board advertising by the NHL. Ads were once as large as 3.6 meters, but that size was reduced in 2007 to 3.2 meters in order to squeeze more advertisers onto the boards. A Maple Leafs marketing executive reported that a pair of advertisements on the boards of the Air Canada Center can sell for up to $600,000 per season per pair of advertising spots. That's a pretty lucrative revenue stream for the teams and the league.

Ads on the ice began appearing in the 1990s, and they are used all over the cold surface today. There are ads surrounding the center ice face-off circle, inside the center ice face-off circle, and the NHL displays messages inside the bluelines while ads inside the bluelines are displayed in the minor leagues.

The New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks have even taken their on-air broadcasting one step further as they have began selling virtual ads on the glass of their arenas! The Rangers have shown Subway ads on the glass at Madison Square Garden thanks to CG technology, and the Blackhawks have promoted lotteries with their broadcasts. While this is seen as another excellent revenue stream for the league and its teams, I find it distracting when watching a game.

Needless to say, ads on the boards will not be going away despite the outcry from hockey traditionalists.

As we all know, Reebok has cornered the market on hockey uniforms. Because of their massive corporate sponsorship dollars, Reebok also owns the line markers on the boards in every arena in the NHL. While Reebok originally went with their RBK logo, they have since changed back to the "Reebok" wordmark down the line markers for better recognition. This also is seen on the blueline markers on the boards.

Insurance companies have been seen in a large number of arenas. Soft drink supremacy happens along boards in arenas. Beer companies are widely represented in NHL arenas. Entertainment and technology companies are prominent in NHL rinks. Even the ice crews are subjected to advertising something! And we can't forget the NHL's self-promotion, can we?

Basically, it comes down to being inundated with advertisements and logos at every turn in the NHL along the boards no matter where you look. These logos and advertisements help pay for the entertainment you see on the ice.

I certainly don't have all the NHL's information on who owns what areas on the boards, and how many league-wide advertisements are owned by which companies. But I will show off each rinks logos on a template that will make it fairly easy to follow. I nearly have Toronto and Anaheim done, and I'm beginning work on Montreal and Colorado as well. I can't tell you how many images and videos I've reviewed to find the logos and how they are arranged on each team's boards, but it has been exhausting. My goal is to being one team's rink to you per week, but this may be more demanding that I first thought. However, I strive to bring at least one per week to HBIC for you, and if it goes into the new season, so be it.

Toronto will appear this week, and, hopefully, I'll get Anaheim done as well. Tune in shortly for these looks. If you'd like to help with additional rinks, please send me the information via email with the subject line "Rink logos for [insert city name]" to this address. Full credit will be given if you'd like to help.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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