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NHL Sponsorship Grows Faster Than NFL's

Chicago Tribune, June 11, 2015

By Robert Channick

Whether or not the Blackhawks beat the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final, there's one competition where the team has already won big: sponsorship dollars.

The Chicago team generated nearly twice as much in sponsorship revenue as Tampa Bay during the 2014-15 season, according to Jim Andrews, senior vice president of Chicago-based IEG Research.

Andrews wouldn't disclose specific amounts but said the Blackhawks are among the top NHL franchises in sponsorship revenue, while the Lightning rank somewhere near the bottom.

Overall, NHL sponsorship revenue increased by 9.2 percent to $447 million for the league and its 30 teams, according to a report released this week by IEG. While still the smallest of the four major sports, hockey's sponsorship growth outpaced the NFL this season.

"Just looking at the number of deals they signed this year with very blue-chip brands, clearly it was a very good year for the NHL," Andrews said.

Andrews said the sponsorship trajectory reflects the growing popularity of hockey as a marketing platform in North America, with the NHL more than doubling a projected 4.4 percent increase in overall sports sponsorship spending. He said a sponsorship relationship can entail everything from stadium signage to promotional partnerships.

Quick-service restaurants, automakers, insurance and beer were the top four NHL sponsorship categories, with Reebok the most active sponsor across the league. New NHL sponsors this season included DraftKings, GoPro, Kellogg's, Samsung, SAP and Procter & Gamble.

Major Blackhawks sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, CME Group, Lexus, BMO Harris Bank and NorthShore University HealthSystem.

The prevalence of beer sponsors at NHL arenas would seem to make sense. A study released Wednesday by Nielsen Talent Analytics showed that NHL fans were 64 percent more likely than the general population to have consumed beer in the past week, topping all of the other major sports in that category.