Staying on the topic of partnerships, the NHL introduced a new partnership this season (2015-16) with Major League Baseball Advanced Media. While NHL GameCenter Live was once an entity solely of the National Hockey League, it has now handed over its online streaming to MLBAM. Much like the partnership with Adidas, this is a huge victory for the NHL. Major League Baseball is perhaps the most popular sports league in America, and its online streaming, MLB.TV, is a huge success. The NHL turned over its digital marketing, including the website development, to the MLBAM. In doing so, the NHL has gained digital media from a well-established sports marketing institution, meaning that the content and design is well-suited for the target audiences. In terms of revenue, the NHL has tapped in to new markets with this partnership. There was a deal for fans to purchase MLB.TV and NHL GameCenter Live as a package available to U.S. residents for a one-time fee of $139.95. This package gives fans full access to streaming any NHL or MLB game. This is especially useful for fans wanting to watch out-of-market broadcasts. Since the MLB has a much larger fan base than the NHL, this package deal allowed the NHL to reach new audiences by allowing the tandem purchase of MLB.TV and NHL GameCenter Live. Fans of the MLB who regularly purchase an MLB.TV subscription, could also gain access to NHL games, perhaps exposing them to a league they did not necessarily follow as heavily. This opportunity allowed the NHL to gain new fans, or at least entice a larger amount of people to purchase an NHL GameCenter Live subscription. It seems that the NHL is making great strides in partnerships that benefit the league’s marketing efforts.
In the fall of 2015, the National Hockey League announced that it had signed a seven-year contract with Adidas beginning in 2017-18, making Adidas the official outfitter of NHL uniforms. In other words, beginning in the 2017-18 season, Adidas will be making all of the jerseys for the NHL. Adidas has traditionally been linked with soccer (football), but will now be making its way into hockey. From a marketing standpoint, this seems like a huge victory for the National Hockey League. Jerseys are the highest selling piece of merchandise for the NHL, and linking such a global brand as Adidas with those uniforms should help continue that trend, if not bolster it. The NHL has perhaps the smallest U.S. following of any of the four major sports, and perhaps introducing Adidas into the fold could increase merchandising sales. Furthermore, the NHL can utilize Adidas as a marketing tool, or perhaps partner, as Adidas clearly has been able to capture a wide global audience. Even NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stated that he’s “thrilled by the resources Adidas will dedicate to the partnership.”
Some fans are fearing that Adidas will try to introduce corporate advertisements onto the NHL jerseys. Adidas has done that with many soccer teams, such as Premier League teams, however Gary Bettman addressed this claim in September stating that “The history, tradition and respect that goes with NHL sweaters is something that we and Adidas are very respectful of.” While jersey advertisements could bring in tons of revenue and marketing opportunities for the NHL, it seems best to honor the current fan base by keeping advertisements off of jerseys. While breaking into new markets and gaining new fans is important, it is also important to maintain and keep current fans happy.
Overall, the NHL jersey partnership with Adidas seems to be a great marketing move for the NHL. A large, global brand such as Adidas can bring many resources and opportunities to the table for the NHL to help grow the NHL brand, as well as the Adidas brand.