by Dan Adkisson
The NHL generated $1.4 billion from brand sponsorships during the 2021-22 season, a $623 million hike compared to the previous season. NHL teams received more than half of this money, while the league kept the rest to help advance hockey.
How does sponsorship money help the sport grow? In this article, we’ll explain how the NHL has been using money generated from brand sponsorships to grow its popularity both locally and internationally.
Before then, let’s take a look at some of hockey’s biggest sources of revenue:
TV Broadcasting Deals
The NHL makes an average of $255 million per season from its TV broadcasting deal with Turner Sports. The sports network will hold the rights to broadcast more than half of NHL regular season matches. It will also broadcast three NHL Cup Finals before its seven-year contract is over, while ESPN will air the other four.
Ticket sales are an important revenue source for each NHL team. On average, NHL teams welcome 17,500 fans per game. They charge roughly $80 per seat, resulting in an average of $1.4 million per game.
Considering there are 82 games in an NHL regular season, teams can make more than $100m every season from ticket sales.
Both the league and teams have brand sponsors. Some of the league’s biggest sponsors include Adidas, EA Sports, SAP, Apple, and AWS. Most of these companies have long-term contracts with the league.
Lately, the NHL is also welcoming gambling partners. It works with DraftKings, Betway, Points Bet, and a few more Paysafecard casino sites. Betting companies tend to pay out much higher amounts of money than other brands, which is why they’re appealing to the league.
Improving the Quality of Coaching
Brand partnership money helps NHL teams invest in the best coaching staff and more advanced equipment. The best NHL coaches come at a cost. A team not only needs to pay the head coach but also his assistants.
Then there are the training facilities. The NHL has standards for what it expects from every team’s training facility. NHL teams can afford to invest in high-quality facilities because they receive hundreds of millions from the league each season.
Beyond facilities, NHL teams work with nutritionists, physiotherapists, and other experts to keep players in their best form. Then there’s technology—teams are constantly investing in data analytics and other innovations that can help them gain a competitive advantage.
Improved training enhances the quality of hockey. The league is more competitive today than it has ever been. In turn, this has fueled the league’s viewership numbers, leading to improved growth for the sport.
Higher Salaries for Players and Staff <
NHL players make $3.1 million per season on average. The highest-paid player in the 2022-23 season, Connor McDavid of the Ottawa Oilers, makes $12.5 million. Rangers’ Artemi Panarin makes $11.6 million, almost the same amount as Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews.
When you think about it, NHL salaries have been growing over time. The explanation is that teams have been increasing players’ packages based on the revenues they make.
The NHL first introduced a minimum salary limit during the 1958-59 season. Back then, teams had to pay each player a minimum of $7000. By 2000, this salary cap had ballooned to $150,000. Today, teams can’t pay players less than $750,000 by default.
Players aside, the NHL can afford to hire the best managers, accountants, and marketers now that the league makes so much money. Working with the best professionals helps the league grow faster, manage its finances better and innovate ways to increase engagement in the league.
TV and Streaming Opportunities
Major sports TV networks pay a lot of money to broadcast leagues like the NFL and the NHL. But they wouldn’t work with these leagues if they weren’t sure the leagues were worth coverage.
To expound more, sponsorship money has helped the NHL grow from being an amateur league to the best hockey league in the world. This took a lot of time to happen. And it probably wouldn’t be possible without the support of sponsors.
Today, the NHL makes $225 million per season thanks to a TV broadcasting deal with Turner Sports. And this isn’t the only organization that pays the league to broadcast its games.
The league has a seven-year partnership with the Walt Disney Company. This deal permits ESPN and ABC to broadcast 25 regular season games per season, half the playoffs, and four Stanley Cup finals.
Every NHL team has a social media presence these days. Some franchises have millions of followers on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Most players have active social media accounts as well.
They’re present on social media to advance their brands. But they wouldn’t do this without the money generated from sponsorships. Sure, the average franchise makes money from ticket sales and merchandise. However, this amount can barely cover player salaries.
At the league level, tremendous marketing is required to grow the NHL’s appeal in North America. It already faces lots of competition from the NBA, NFL, MLB, and MLS.
In fact, some sources show the NHL is at risk of dropping out of the four Major Leagues in the US. The League spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year on marketing. The goal of marketing is to increase viewership and, in turn, attract better-paying sponsors.
Investing in the Future
The NHL isn’t the only hockey league in the world. Europe is full of exciting hockey leagues. But if the NFL is to continue attracting the best players in the world, it will require a lot of investing.
Think about nurturing talents. Sometimes a team needs to take a risk on a young talented player to invest in its future. However, most teams can’t take risks on unproven talents unless they have loads of cash to burn.
Another way the league is investing in its future is by embracing experimental training tactics, player recovery methods, and data analytics. Teams use big data to keep track of every player’s performance. And then, they can use the data to improve a player’s performance on the ice.