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Six Takeaways from the Rogers-NHL Rights Deal

Six Takeaways from the Rogers-NHL Rights Deal

Last week, the sports world was stopped in its tracks by the landscape-shifting 12-year, $5.2 billion national broadcast and multimedia rights deal between the National Hockey League and Rogers Communications. Pundits have been quick to speculate what a deal of this magnitude will mean for Canada’s largest media conglomerates and their on-air talent. However, less prevalent in the coverage of the deal has been the implications for corporate sponsors, both those who are currently heavily invested in hockey, and those brands who are seeking to draw an association with hockey and/or reach fans of the sport for the first time.

Having spent the last week analyzing the deal, we sees both opportunities and challenges for brands in the wake of the new partnership.

1. Take a step back and take stock of your assets: In some respects, sponsors are starting with a clean slate – everything is on the table for consideration. Many in-game features and prominent events will be up for bid. As the market hits the reset button, sponsors may be able to make a play in what was previously occupied space (eg: traditional inventory such as 30 second spots).

2. 30 second spots are not the answer: Sponsors who view the result of this landscape shift to be nothing more than the opportunity to shop at a different place for 30 second spots and branded segments will be missing an opportunity. Sponsors need to engage Rogers in a meaningful way to create unique programs. CBC, through programs like Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada, and TSN, through programs like the Kraft Celebration Tour, were truly committed to launching programs through the spirit of partnership that went beyond the broadcast audience to reach communities. Rogers must learn from their approach.

3. The rise of sports-non-sports bundling is coming: This new deal will likely transform the way Rogers leverages its overall network. When FOX secured NFL rights in the U.S., it used the strength and appeal of football to increase the legitimacy of its non-sports programming. Brands couldn't make a play in football without sponsoring American Idol or The Simpsons, etc. Look for Rogers to follow that model by bringing major brands to programming on City TV, OMNI, etc. through bundling packages.

4. TSN’s next move: By losing out on national rights, TSN will have significant capital to invest in non-hockey related programming should they choose to. Likewise, Rogers will have limited money to spend in other areas. While many in the media have been quick to emphasize the body blow that TSN has taken, brands should not sleep on them just yet. TSN still has the rights to Hockey Canada events such as the World Juniors and World Championships, regional team deals in select markets, strong hockey related programming and prestigious on-air talent. TSN will likely attempt to own all other major sports / events in Canada or continue to take on regional NHL team deals. Either way, they will counter. Next fall, hockey fans will see two networks more motivated than ever to authenticate their relationship with hockey fans. MKTG President Brian Cooper weighed in on TSN’s next move in the Toronto Star last week.

5. Second screen implications: 85% of tablet owners watch TV with their devices and in 2012, 7 of the top 10 most popular televised events were sports events. How fans consume live sport has changed. The mobile implications of this deal are just as important to Rogers as the cable implications. More mobile content will create opportunities for things like branded apps, brand ambassadors on social media, etc.

6. Telecom sponsorship wars: On the heels of the NHL rights announcement, Rogers was introduced as the naming rights partner for the Edmonton Oilers' new stadium. The Oilers deal rounded out Rogers' strong sponsorship presence in Western Canada (they also have the naming rights to Rogers Arena, home of the Vancouver Canucks). Winning the NHL rights authenticates Rogers' existing sponsorship portfolio in hockey, and helps the brand position themselves as "Canada's National Hockey Telecom", versus "Western Canada's Hockey Telecom". These recent announcements amplify the importance and competitiveness of telecommunications as a sponsorship category in Canada. No one company has truly "owned" hockey in Canada with all of the major competitors possessing team deals (Rogers, Telus, and Bell). In a competitive sponsorship category, Rogers has the momentum.

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