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League's new TV spots turn spotlight on young stars

by Dan Rosen /

Buffalo's Ryan Miller is one of the stars of the NHL's new ad campaign, which debuts today.
Ryan Miller wonders if this is the year the Stanley Cup comes to Buffalo.

Sidney Crosby asks the same question about the world’s most famous trophy, but of course he’s pining for it in Pittsburgh.

Wayne Gretzky asks if this is the year someone scores 93, one better than his NHL record of 92 goals in a season.

At one point Eric Staal, on of three Staal brothers in the NHL, asks; “Is the year we finally figure out who is dad’s favorite?”

“Is this the year?”

The NHL is wondering, too, which is why that question is now part of the League’s brand new ad campaign set to debut tonight during the Versus broadcast of the San Jose Sharks vs. Dallas Stars (8 p.m. ET).

The NHL will, in fact, debut two television campaigns tonight featuring the new tagline, “Live Every Shift.” The other TV spot features Miller, Staal, Crosby, Washington Capitals wunderkind Alex Ovechkin, and Tampa Bay sensation Vincent Lecavalier pledging to make good on various goals this season.

“In this jersey I pledge to play for the logo on the front, not the name on the back,” Crosby says as he walks toward the ice in the final clip of the “I Pledge” spot.

According to Brian Jennings, the NHL’s executive vice president of marketing, “Live Every Shift” is an ad campaign geared to marketing the League as a whole by utilizing some of the games youngest and brightest stars.

The NHL enlisted the services of Young and Rubicam, one of the world’s leading marketing and communications agencies, to write and produce the spots in collaboration with NHL Productions.

“We enlisted the help of Y&R and started with a real analysis of consumer insight. We looked at where the brand stature is both in United States and Canada and got some other pieces of information,” Jennings explained. “What we quickly deduced was that our fans were acting more tribal and local in nature, not as much of fans of the game. So how do you start to change the behavior? That’s the thrust behind our marketing campaign this year. We’ll have the tagline of ‘Live Every Shift,’ and that’s rooted in authenticity.”

Jennings added that “Is this the year?” is focused on what could happen this season, and “I Pledge” is a retail-driven spot, enticing people to

“I pledge that my team will scrap for every single point on the schedule,” Lecavalier says during his “‘I Pledge” ad.

The ads can be seen now on and will also air later this week on TSN, CBC, HDNet and the NHL Network.

“These are two of many that are going to be coming,” Jennings said. “We’re going to have spots for We’ll have a playoff campaign, and stuff around the Winter Classic. We’re excited about it. It’s truly a collaborative effort.”

The ads themselves are authentic. The dark backdrop with spotlights on the player, puck and net offers a crisp, cold look tailored perfectly for hockey.

Except for Miller, each player doesn’t wear a helmet, giving them a look unique to most fans. They talk with an edge, suggesting a seriousness to the game and to their job as spokesmen of the League. It helps that all participants bring with them media savvy and a marketable look.

“We want to play our resources strategically and get behind a couple of key athletes to crack the clutter of the market place,” Jennings said. “The great part of the position we’re in right now is we have an opportunity with these young players to capitalize on this youth movement. You see a youth movement going on across the League, and that complements the (Joe) Thorntons, (Martin) Brodeurs, and (Jarome) Iginlas. They are ready. They are media savvy, and they are ready to step up.”

That’s the NHL’s pledge for this season.


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