The Stanley Cup is arguably the most famous trophy in all of professional sports. And to celebrate its 125th anniversary, the National Hockey League selected R&R Partners to help promote the occasion.
R&R created and produced a month-long campaign that included two broadcast spots, a 360-VR activation at an NHL game, and a content film to be shared out with the NHL’s 4 million-plus followers. The most engaging aspect of the campaign was our activation effort. Our team concepted and produced a surprise and delight moment at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh for the Penguin’s February 18 game.
Fans were invited to line up before and after the game to step inside our 20-foot shipping container that housed our VR experience. Each guest sat down around a small, unassuming black table equipped with VR headsets and a tiny replica of the Stanley Cup. Each guest was set up with the headset by our brand ambassadors and transported to a VR world of historic Cup wins and clips of the Cup being hoisted by their favorite players. A final scene involved Phil Pritchard – the official keeper of the Cup– and an opportunity to virtually reach out and grab the Cup. But what the guests didn’t know was, while they were inside this VR world, Phil and the Cup were actually in the room.
The iconic Stanley Cup is placed in front of an unsuspecting fan while watching the 125th Stanley Cup VR video.
Once fans were situated, Phil quietly came out from behind a black curtain and replaced the tiny replica on the table in front of them with the actual Stanley Cup! The reactions, once headsets were removed, ran the spectrum. There were lots of tears, screams, and complete and utter shock that left some completely speechless. It’s truly amazing to see the deep connection the Cup holds with each person.
Working with the NHL was truly an honor for the agency and we created work that lives up to its legacy. View the TV campaign and a video of the fan experience below:
Sponsorship marketing: the frosting on a brand’s overall marketing mix and the multibillion-dollar industry that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Due to the continued fragmentation of media (I’m talking to you cord-cutters) and shifts in demographic buying power (hey, millennials!), sponsorship marketing will continue to increase in overall advertising spend for brands all over the world.
One current client of R&R Partners who uses sponsorship marketing as a large part of their media strategy is the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. Las Vegas sponsors an array of events throughout the year spanning awards shows, culinary festivals, sports championships and more. One of its longstanding sponsorships with the National Hockey League features a season-long media partnership, as well as the NHL Awards broadcast live from Vegas each June.
A sponsorship can begin to die a slow decrease-in-ROI death unless the parties involved continually evaluate, evolve and challenge each other to push the envelope each and every contract renewal.
Previous digital initiatives for the NHL/Las Vegas partnership focused on a league sweepstakes as a mechanism for database acquisition. But with the digital landscape constantly changing and evolving, content started to take more of a strategic front seat.
Knowing that reaching sports fans when they are most engaged is the best time for brand messaging to be consumed, our team determined real-time hockey content was the best avenue to explore in replacement of the sweepstakes initiative. We wanted the brand to be organically attached to a platform that hockey fans would seek out, versus the brand doing the heavy lifting in seeking out fans. The goal (no pun intended), was to completely reverse the brand consumption flow.
Enter Las Vegas’ first ever video content component of their NHL sponsorship: Road Warriors.
Using a pillar of Las Vegas’ sponsorship strategy, “All Roads Lead to Vegas,” (in recognition that Vegas is the city where champions are crowned), Road Warriors paid homage to players and teams who had stellar plays while on the road.
The platform followed a succinct distribution strategy. A spectacular road play would occur during a game, the video footage would be clipped and edited together, and then posted to both the NHL’s Facebook and Twitter pages. A branded website on NHL.com housed all of the Road Warriors content throughout the season and also included 100% share-of-voice for Las Vegas creative. To create a fully integrated platform, Road Warriors highlights were shown within nightly sports programming on NHL Network.
The framework was there, but, would NHL fans dig it? Short answer – they did.
Launching in February to coincide with NHL.com’s website redesign launch, Road Warriors saw double digit growth in fan engagement through the end of the 2016 season. An impressive feat when you think as teams start to become eliminated from Stanley Cup contention, those fan bases organically become less engaged, reducing the overall audience who would be interested in hockey content. Road Warriors broke through that trend.
The social posts garnered more than 8.1 million video views and 188,000 engagements. Webpage visits were almost 800,000 with visitors spending on average more than two minutes per visit. This was all accomplished with zero paid media support driving to any of the content, proving the platform was relevant, engaging and organically executed.
But the most impressive stat? Road Warriors was the #1 NHL sponsor video program of the year. SCORE!
As part of the festivities hosted around the NHL Awards, the league holds a morning summit with their season’s partners. I was honored to have the opportunity to share Road Warriors with the group, alongside our NHL account executive, Josh Cohen. We held great company with Tim Horton’s and MillerCoors being the other two brands who presented their NHL initiatives for the year. Brands like Honda, McDonald’s, Samsung and Visa were in attendance to learn how they could craft winning programs similar to ours.
Not only was this a great platform to showcase one of our clients, we were able to showcase R&R Partners as an expert in partnership marketing. Oh, and we were also awarded a Las Vegas hockey team that afternoon, too—obviously not due to Road Warriors’ success.