The Most Marketable Athletes at the 2016 World Juniors
4 Minute Read
• The World Juniors are an opportunity for young players to demonstrate their marketability to fans and potential sponsors.
• Top future endorsers to watch from this year’s tournament include Mitch Marner (Canada), Auston Matthews (USA) and others.
The 2016 World Junior Hockey Championships ended this week when host Finland beat Russia 4-3 in overtime in the gold medal game. This tournament has become increasingly popular amongst Canadians as it provides the opportunity for hockey fans to see future stars of the NHL play on the world stage. Current NHL players like Sidney Crosby, PK Subban, Carrey Price, and Connor McDavid all were introduced to the nation at the World Juniors.
For sponsors, it is also a time when they are able to scout new and rising hockey endorsers. The World Juniors offer a platform where players can demonstrate a variety of different brand attributes on a mass scale for the first time:
Media Savvy- The World Junior tournament is promoted heavily through its broadcast partner TSN with pre-tournament coverage and nationally televised games. Many junior hockey players have not experienced such media attention and are given the opportunity to have their personal narrative brought to the forefront. Players will be able to show sponsors how they handle themselves in front of an audience through interactions with media or broadcast features.
Elite Play- The World Juniors is a very prestigious tournament that gathers the best under 20 hockey players from around the world. With such high levels of competition, looking at the top performing players of the tournament can provide a good indicator of future NHL stars.
Association with National Pride- Many players say that their biggest accomplishment comes with representing their country. These players now have an opportunity to associate themselves with patriotism, a common theme many sponsors activate around.
Despite Canada’s quick exit at the tournament, there were still a number of players that utilized the stage to their advantage. MKTG breaks down the five most marketable athletes coming out of the 2016 World Junior Hockey championship
Mitch Marner is an 18-year-old co-captain of the London Knights and the 4th overall pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs in last year’s NHL Draft. Despite a shorter than expected tournament for Canada, Marner tied for the lead in points on the team with six (four goals, two assists). Being born in the Greater Toronto Area, Marner will have extra support playing for the hometown Maple Leafs giving sponsors a compelling narrative in potential activations. Marner is active on social media posting frequently both on Instagram and Twitter which can endear him to fans and provide a brand extension platform for sponsors. Marner has already been featured in spots with Under Armour (MKTG Client) demonstrating his attractiveness as an endorser.
William Nylander was one of the most talked about players coming into the World Junior tournament. He was selected eighth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2014 NHL Draft and is currently playing for their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. Nylander was leading the AHL in points before he left to participate in the tournament. The tournament got off to a promising start for Nylander as he scored in Sweden’s opening game against Switzerland, but his tournament ended shortly after he suffered a concussion from a hit to the head. Nylander sat out the remainder of the tournament and was unable to showcase his talents on the larger stage. Once Nylander recovers and begins his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs he will have an opportunity to become a valuable endorser in one of hockey’s biggest markets.
Auston Matthews is an American forward who many are calling the likely number one overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Matthews has represented his country many times and has found success in leading the Americans to back-to-back gold’s at the U18s and to bronze this year at the World Juniors. In his final year before he is draft eligible, Matthews opted to sign a one-year contract in the Swiss National League, an unconventional move that has set Matthews apart from his peers. At this year’s World Juniors he tied for the team lead in points with 11 and was named to the tournament’s all-star team. Matthews can join fellow American Jack Eichel as the next group of young American hockey players.
With the pressure as the host nation, Finland’s Jesse Puljujarvi led his team to gold at this year’s World Junior Championships. As a 17 year old he led the tournament with 17 points, making him the fourth highest scoring 17 year old ever at the World Juniors behind Jaromir Jager, Wayne Gretzky, and Eric Lindros. Puliuiavari was also named to the tournament’s all-star team and captured MVP honours. Puljujarvi was already considered a top NHL draft pick headed into this tournament but with his strong play some scouts are increasing his draft stock. Puljujarvi will likely be attractive to many Finnish brands but depending on where he is drafted could determine how attractive he is to North American brands.
Dylan Strome is another highly touted Canadian that may not have been able to demonstrate his full potential because of Canada’s abbreviated tournament. However, as a third overall pick by the Arizona Coyotes in last year’s draft, Strome made the most of his tournament. Strome matched Mitch Marner as Canada’s points leader with four goals and two assists. Currently playing in the OHL with the Eerie Otters Strome is sixth in the league in scoring with 16 goals and 37 assist. Dylan’s older brother Ryan currently plays for the New York Islanders and a younger brother Matthew plays in the OHL for the Hamilton Bulldogs. With two other hockey brothers, the Strome’s have a potential to become the next Canadian hockey family much like the Staal’s and now the Subbans.
For Canadian’s this tournament may have been seen as a disappointment. However, for brands looking for the next group of hockey endorsers, it has provided a strong list of eligible endorsers.