Sports has long been very reliant on sponsors and sponsorship deals, with some of the biggest sports stars in the world earning as much as they do through sponsorships as they do for doing their job. Still, in a competition like the NHL, sponsors find that their products or advertising will not be effective in all markets that become accessible with a sports deal.
So, like many other leagues, the NHL has established official sponsors for its global reach (Adidas, EA Sports, Upper Deck), North American audience (PepsiCo, Ticketmaster, Honda), and for individual territories. Sponsors who have US deals do not tend to have Canadian deals, with their core audiences being south of the border.
It makes for more efficient sponsorship arrangements and certainly shows a different range of preferences in the two markets. The collection of industries involved in US NHL sponsorship is wildly different from those sponsoring Canada-side. Utilizing the list of NHL sponsors and brands tablewe look at how the two territories differ.
US sponsorship leans into three key categories
The NHL has 18 brands that sponsor them exclusively in the US, with 15 of them congealing into three distinct categories. The three outliers, in regards to categorization, are the Navy Federal Credit Union under military appreciation – although the entity itself would fall under one of the key categories – Shavelogic and their razors, and Verizon, the mobile services provider.
Of those remaining, one of the newest players to the game has the largest percentage hold of US NHL sponsorship, with that industry being gambling. Since 2018, people across the US have been wondering what are no deposit bonuses and whether instant withdrawal casinos exist. It just so happens that one of the highest-rated brands in both categories, BetMGM Casino, is one of six gambling sponsors of the NHL in the US.
Next up are the food and drinks brands that, naturally, want to showcase themselves at stadiums and during intervals. This season, it was Anheuser-Busch, Dunkin, Jägermeister, Truly Hard Seltzer, and New Amsterdam Vodka. Just short of food and beverages with a count of four – unless you bundle in the NFCU – is the finance category. Here, it’s credit card brand Discover, auto insurance brand Geico, mortgage company Guaranteed Rate, and life insurance providers Mass Mutual.
In the US, NHL sponsorships clearly converge into three distinct categories, with those industries seemingly wanting the most exposure to American hockey fans than any other.
Canadian sponsorship has a dominant force
There are 17 Canada-specific sponsors of the NHL, and there are a couple of ways to look at the group. You could say that there are eight categories on show, with even a brand like Kruger teaming up with the league to become the ‘Official Canadian Tissues of the NHL.’ Alternatively, you can see it as one dominant category of sponsorship with a bunch more far less represented.
This category is food and drinks. Danone, Kellogg’s, Labatt, Molson Coors, Nestlé, Pinty’s, SkipTheDishes, Sobeys, and Tim Hortons make up the glut of the brand sponsors in Canada, with them all being in drinks, meat, groceries, yogurt, or chocolate. The next largest category is a generously combined vehicle goods collective of two brands: Esso and Canadian Tire.
While in the US, fans of the likes of the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, and San Jose Sharks can expect to see a tight collective of industries trying to grab their attention; in Canada, it’s mostly food and drinks brands.