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NHL.com: "Is This The Year?" ad campaign comes to life

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
Preds team "Is This The Year" spot

Dan Ellis "Is This The Year" spot
With the start of the regular season only days away, the NHL’s latest ad campaign – debuting exclusively on NHL.com – brings several star players to life with technical innovation that may cause you to rub your eyes in amazement and do a double-take.

The “Is This The Year?” campaign features four national television spots with Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Henrik Lundqvist and Dion Phaneuf, in addition to team-specific television, print, store point of sale and Web ads using players from each of the 30 member clubs.

“What are the drivers for this season? We have 53 million fans that through research we have identified. Twenty-two million of those call themselves avid fans,” said Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of Marketing, NHL. “We want to speak to the fans in different ways. At the beginning of the year, we want to express the hopes, possibilities and anticipation of the new season.”

The television ads begin with still photographs of the player in action, and using green-screen technology, allow the player to come to life and deliver their personal feelings about the game they play and their hopes for their team’s success this season. Crosby and his teammates are shown in a photograph standing by the bench following their Game 6 loss to Detroit in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final. Suddenly, Crosby turns three-dimensional, turns to the camera and states, “This is a tough one, getting this close and not winning the Cup. But I know it’ll make our team even stronger…I never want to be in this photograph again.”

We have so many rich photographic images, and while we're creatively collaborating on next year’s campaign, we wondered ‘What if we make a portion of them come to life?’ It blew our minds to see the players stepping out and talking about the moment in that photograph. - Brian Jennings, Executive VP of Marketing, NHL
“We have so many rich photographic images, and while we're creatively collaborating on next year’s campaign, we wondered ‘What if we make a portion of them come to life?’” Jennings said. “It blew our minds to see the players stepping out and talking about the moment in that photograph.”

In addition to NHL.com, the ads will also run on Versus, CBC, TSN, NHL Network and regional broadcast carriers, along with corresponding print ads, store point-of-sale and Web assets.

In choosing this quartet for the national campaign, Jennings feels the four each bring something different to the table in terms of stardom. “Kane is somebody, along with Jonathan Toews, who captured an Original Six franchise and put it on his shoulders. He’s the rookie of the year and a good, obvious choice with star potential,” Jennings said. “Dion Phaneuf is somebody who will be a driving force for the Canadian 2010 Olympic team. Henrik Lundqvist, who is a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, a lot of the fortune of the Rangers will ride on his ability.

“Sid and Alex (Ovechkin), everyone knows their on-ice abilities. They’re always naturals and given due consideration. As marketers, we’re blessed with a lot of choices.”

For Lundqvist’s spot, he says, “Last season I led the League in shutouts, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t care that I turned away 1,663 shots. What keeps me up at night is the 160 that got past me.”

“When Henrik was filming, he asked after reading the script, ‘Why couldn’t I have just stopped 2,000 shots instead of saying 1,663?’” Jennings said in sharing a light moment from the filming.

The spots were all directed by Phil Harder of Santa Monica-based Bob Industries.

Sidney Crosby -- He probably has another two decades to try to win a Cup. But don't tell him that. Is this the year?
“They deal with lots of entertainment types and athletes. At the filming with Dion Phaneuf, they said he was just awesome,” Jennings added. “He went around to every person on the set, looked them in the eye and thanked them personally, from the lighting guy to the sound people to the person who says ‘Take 4’ or ‘Take 5’ before each filming. That says as much about our athletes as anything.”

“Is This The Year?” has also been customized to include two different commercials for all 30 teams: one player specific and one team specific. “We got a lot of feedback from our clubs,” Jennings said. “We listened to our clubs to celebrate their teams and players in these spots.

“Each team has its own story, so it’s critical to inspire fans in the team’s market.  Utilizing a common national and local platform will enable us to connect with fans on both levels.

“We say time in and time out, and it sounds tedious and cliché sometimes…our guys are the best. They get asked to do a lot of things and they’ve been great. They’ve been cooperative.

“Our players are our greatest asset, and they are our best story tellers.”

The second phase of the season-opening marketing campaign focuses on the relaunch of NHL.com, which was completely re-designed and re-programmed to be more personalized for fans and utilizes more digital content and video.

In these spots, Carrie Milbank, the host of the NHL Network Online’s The Hockey Show, visits experts, including broadcaster Ed Olczyk and Tampa Bay coach Barry Melrose, to educate them on various features of the new NHL.com. In one version, Milbank visits Henry and Linda Staal, parents of NHL players Eric, Jordan and Marc Staal, in their Thunder Bay, Ontario, home to show them how the new NHL.com allows them to more closely follow their sons’ careers. The spot closes with: “The New NHL.com. For parents of NHL players, and fans everywhere.”

The NHL is also introducing a customized marketing campaign for NHL Center Ice, the out-of-market TV subscription service, targeting the displaced fan. By partnering with various cable and satellite distributors and by way of direct-to-consumer promotion, the campaign explains to fans that regardless of where they live, NHL Center Ice allows them to stay close to their favorite teams and players. Through TV, radio, print, direct mail, e-mails and Web assets across the U.S. and Canada, the campaign uses the tagline “The Game Lives Where You Do.”


Author: Rocky Bonanno | NHL.com Staff Writer

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