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Stanley Cup Final Broadcasts Were Power Plays for NHL Sponsors

Adidas, Discover Among Top Brand Value Earners

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Sponsorship Valuation
August 4, 2022
August 4, 2022
 min read

From the beginning of training camp every season, hockey players across the NHL lace up their skates and hit the ice with one goal in mind: finishing the year with a solo lap around the rink while hoisting the Stanley Cup overhead. The trophy that stands nearly three feet tall and weighs almost 35 pounds has the power to bring grown men to tears while displaying unbridled joy after a long and arduous playoff journey, as they know their names will soon be forever etched onto arguably the most recognizable award in North American sports. This year’s Stanley Cup Final pitted two NHL powerhouses against one another. The Colorado Avalanche were a team of superstars who had consistently come up short in the playoffs, having failed to advance past the second round in two decades – and losing as a favorite in each of the previous two seasons. The Tampa Bay Lightning, however, was accustomed to winning. In the bubble season of 2020 and then again in 2021, the Bolts were the last team standing. This year, they aimed to make it a three-peat. We used MVP’s broadcast platform to glean unique viewership and brand value insights from the battle of hungry newcomers to the stage and embattled veterans. For the first time since 2004 – the Lightning’s most recent trip to the Final before the current mini-dynasty – games were aired on the ESPN family of networks. And 7.38 million household viewers on ABC for Game 1 suggested the move was instantly beneficial to the NHL and its partners.

New Broadcast Network Boosts Viewership

The 2022 Stanley Cup Final was broadcast exclusively on ABC, marking the first time in history every game of the NHL’s final round has aired on network television in the U.S. In recent years, Stanley Cup Final series were split between NBC and NBCSN, which ceased operations at the end of 2021. While this year’s games were simulcast on streaming service ESPN+, the move to ABC paid immediate dividends for the NHL. Viewership peaked at 7.38 million viewers in Game 1, but Games 4 through 6 also all exceeded 7 million. After a dip to 5.82 million viewers for Game 2, audience totals increased every game the rest of the way, culminating with 7.33 million for the deciding game. In total, the NHL drew 41.59 million viewers throughout the series, a 56% year-over-year increase and a 68% boost from 2020. Last year’s Final only needed five games to complete, but the 6.93 million household average for the Avalanche-Lightning series was still 30% higher than the 5.32 million fans Tampa Bay and Montreal drew in 2021.

In terms of regional viewership, the participants’ hometowns were near the top of our list. The vast New York market – whose Rangers fell to the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals – pipped Tampa-St. Petersburg for first by a mere .002%. An average of 464,461 households in the Big Apple tuned in, while 463,554 watched from Tampa. It was the second time during the Lightning’s three-year Eastern Conference reign that the Tampa market finished 2nd in viewership among nationwide DMAs, having also finished first last year with an average of 555,138 viewers over five games. Los Angeles earned third place among DMAs for this year’s Cup Final by drawing an average of 372,623 viewers, and Denver followed closely behind in fourth with a 339,616 average. Philadelphia, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Boston were the other markets to exceed 200,000 viewers per game.

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NHL Partners Net Millions in Brand Value

Elevated viewership meant a larger audience of potential customers for the NHL’s partners during each of the six Stanley Cup Final games. We used MVP’s AI-powered software to scan games for brand detections on the ice, stadium signage, boards, graphics, jerseys, equipment, and various other placements and estimate the total broadcast brand value generated for league sponsors. Our platform found NHL official apparel supplier adidas’s prominence during the recently concluded Stanley Cup Final resulted in broadcast brand value generation of $7.62M to lead all NHL partners. The sportswear giant has been a league sponsor since the 2017-18 season, although it recently announced it does not intend to renew the deal after it expires following the 2023-24 campaign. The next brand to take over the role can expect clear branding placement on telecasts throughout the season and especially the playoffs. Adidas enjoyed an exposure duration of five hours, six minutes, and 20 seconds during the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. But it was not the only big winner from the series. Discover and Geico received $5.54M and $5.5M worth of broadcast brand value, respectively, to round out the top three, followed by Honda with $5.02M and Betway with $4.7M. In total, 10 NHL partners received at least $2.5M in broadcast brand value during the Avalanche-Lightning series, with nine of those surpassing $3M.

Just on the outside of that set was Ball Corporation, which has naming rights to the Avalanche’s home arena. Ball finished 11th in our rankings with an estimated $2.27M worth of broadcast brand value. In rather stark contrast, Amalie, whose name is on the Lightning’s home arena, earned only $355,850 in broadcast brand value across the six games. Much of the difference was a result of Ball receiving an exposure duration of 57 minutes and 27 seconds – 8.68x longer than Amalie.

Skating Fast Into a New Season

Colorado ultimately won the Stanley Cup Final in six games, its first championship since 2001, and celebrated in front of a dejected crowd in Tampa. Those celebrations have continued throughout the summer, as each member of the team has been taking turns spending a day with the Cup however they choose. But before long, the Avalanche will aim to defend their title much like the Lightning did before them. The upcoming season will begin on October 7 with the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks facing off in the NHL Global Series at O2 Arena in Prague. Stay connected with MVP in the coming months for further broadcast and brand insights once the 2022-2023 campaign gets underway.

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