New NHL deal is heavy on content
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Mar 09, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

New NHL deal is heavy on content

Samsung doesn't just want its logo on rink boards


The NHL and Samsung Canada are set to announce this week that the electronics manufacturer had signed on as one of the league’s official corporate partners. But this deal isn’t just about pasting logos on rink boards.

Like a growing number of sports sponsorships, it revolves around content.

When Samsung smartphone users download the NHL app, they’ll have access to videos that iPhone and BlackBerry users can’t access — specifically, edited footage from the league’s “Situation Room,” where officials watch videos, then issue rulings on disputed goals.

While fans at home and at the arena will learn the outcome of the call, Samsung users will be able to view a video explaining how officials reached their decision.

For Samsung, the move is an attempt to find an edge in an ultra-competitive smartphone market. According to a 2013 Ipsos-Reid survey, 29 per cent of Canadian mobile phone users had Samsung devices, while 33 per cent used iPhones.

“We love for people to switch off of a competitor’s platform,” says Paul Brannen, Samsung Canada’s senior vice president of mobile solutions. “It’s become an interesting race in the mobile space. If I can create a compelling reason for you to switch off that platform to my platform, it’s beneficial for us.”

The agreement also taps into a synergy between Samsung’s desire to feature its products and the NHL’s need to keep pace with changing viewing habits.

“Samsung’s products fit with how people consume games,” say Keith McIntyre, president of the KMac Group marketing consultancy. “People want to be able to stream, and it allows Samsung to truly showcase how their products can be brought to life.”

NHL content is more valuable than ever for Canadian broadcasters and sponsors, but it still isn’t clear if the league can lure customers. In late 2013, Rogers agreed to pay the NHL $5.2 billion over 12 years to broadcast games on TV and online in Canada.

That deal included Game Centre Live, an online broadcast package available to customers of all carriers, and an enhanced Game Centre package for Rogers subscribers. The two-tiered system prompted rival provider Bell to complain to the CRTC that it violated net neutrality.

But the extra NHL content hasn’t stopped Rogers customers from leaving. In its final quarter of 2014, the company lost 58,000 mobile and cable subscribers.

Though Rogers is the NHL’s official Canadian broadcaster, the league says Samsung Canada didn’t need special clearance to include NHL footage in its app.

“There’s so much unique content, some we’re creating now and some we haven’t even gotten around to creating yet,” says David Lehanski, the NHL’s senior VP of integrated sales. “There’s a lot of opportunity to give fans a different perspective.”

The agreement will also see Samsung sponsor a blog at, but sports marketing experts say the exclusive content is the most important element of the deal because it reflects broader sports sponsorship trends.

George Brown College sports marketing professor Peter Widdis says fans don’t get excited over seeing sponsors’ logos, but connect deeply with sponsorships they can experience. He says a technology manufacturer is uniquely positioned to facilitate that type of sponsorship.

“We’re living in the age of experiential (marketing), and sponsors are requiring that it be built into their sponsorship packages,” Widdis says. “Digital has enabled experiential to thrive in sports marketing.”

Samsung’s investment in sports properties follows that template.

The NHL agreement comes five months after Samsung declined to re-up as jersey sponsor for Chelsea of England’s Premier League. Two years ago, Samsung decided not to renew its agreement to sponsor Diamond League track meets, a contract that cost them nearly $5 million annually.

Instead, the company invested in individual athletes such as Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and NBA megastar LeBron James, and in high-profile activations such as making 1 million digital copies of Jay-Z’s album Magna Carta/Holy Grail available to Samsung users before it hit the open market.

“People already know what our brand is,” says Brannen says. “The value for you as a customer is more important for me than creating greater brand value.”

Toronto Star

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