NBC/NHL Stanley Cup spots like catnip for hockey fans

Scene from “Two Half Times” NHL spot

Maybe it happened while you weren’t watching.  But professional hockey has become a very big business on television over the past several years.

Once upon a time hockey was viewed as one of the less popular of professional sports because it was less widely seen on TV. But all that has changed. Especially since NBC and its various cable channels — including the local Comcast SportsNet Chicago — have made televising hockey a priority.  

As far as Chicago and its Blackhawks are concerned, it didn’t hurt that the team ended a long championship drought a couple of years ago and won the coveted Stanley Cup — the top honor in all of hockey — at just about the time hockey was really taking off on television.

The Hawks’ winning the Stanley Cup certainly galvanized Chicago audiences and drew them in much larger numbers to an exotic  game played on a slick sheet of ice with a puck and sticks.

Now that there is a growing audience for the game — nationally and in Canada (where hockey has always been king) — it makes sense for NBC and the National Hockey League to boost their efforts to market the game.  What’s that old saying about striking while the iron is hot?

Draftfcb produced the spots and an outdoor campaign

So to generate more interest in the special mystique that has always enshrouded hockey in the eyes of devout fans, NBC and the NHL are launching a new ad campaign to promote the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs that begin April 11.

The campaign is in large part the handiwork of DraftFCB/Chicago, which worked on several new TV spots that have just begun running, as well as a new outdoor campaign that debuts in April.

The first two TV executions are intended to highlight the fun of going to a hockey game, as well as the rather strange aura that surrounds the Stanley Cup itself, the impressive trophy awarded each year to hockey’s world champion team.  The winning team gets to keep the trophy for the duration of its year as world champion.

One spot tells of game, other about Stanley Cup history 

Scene from “Two Half Times” NHL spotOne new spot titled “Two Half-Times,” which tells us hockey is a game comprised of three distinct periods of play.  That, of course, allows for two intermissions to give those watching at home or in an arena more time for partying with friends.  To buttress that message, the new spot includes plenty of visuals of young adults getting ready to go to a game and hanging out in full party mode at a bar and hockey arena.

The imagery in the commercial is okay for what it is, but hardly compelling.  The spot doesn’t include anything we haven’t seen in countless beer commercials. 

Perhaps what is missing most is some lively — breathtaking even — footage of hockey players in action. Something to give the spot a sharp edge and underscore the point that hockey is special, and not just another reason to hang out with buds. 

A second spot called “Where It’s Been” focuses intently on the Stanley Cup trophy itself as it seeks to fill in some of the Cup’s strange back history for the uninitiated.  Among other things we learn the cup has slid across a frozen canal in Canada, been found in a family’s basement and gone underwater.

Yes, the Cup has definitely been around over the course of the decades it’s been hockey’s premier trophy — though we seriously doubt it’s been sitting abandoned on a rainy roadside as one sequence in the commercial suggests with no explanation offered for why it’s there.

Spots will surely fire up hockey fans

Whether or not these two commercials and others to follow win over large numbers of new fans to professional hockey and the Stanley Cup playoffs, they will surely serve as catnip for the many fanatics who make their way to the United Center for every Blackhawks home game. Or to hockey arenas across North America to cheer on their particular home team.

As noted earlier, outdoor work will be part of this new hockey ad campaign too. In Chicago and New York, posters will soon go up out-of-home that are designed to allow a person to stand in front of them and look as if they are hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Ideal, we suppose, for picture-taking and creating even more of a frenzy about the Stanley Cup playoffs that begin soon. 

Draftfcb credits: CCO, Todd Tilford; EVP/CD, Jon Flannery; senior AD, Derek Julin; SVP/group EP, Scott Mitchell; senior producer, Snake Roth.

National Hockey League: EVP/marketing, Brian Jennings; VP/marketing, Casey Hill; marketing, Josh Dubin.  NBC Sports Network: SVP/marketing, promotion, Bill Bergofin; VP/marketing, Ryan Donovan.

Production: Matador, director, Christian Weber, New York; DP, Adolpho Doring; EP, Susannah Phillips. TBD Post, Austin, Texas, Ed Griffis editor. Graphics, Sibling Rivalry Films, New York; Music, Robot Repair, Santa Monica.

Contact Lewis Lazare at: LewisL3@aol.com