NHL Introduces Digital Rinkboards for World Cup of Hockey TV Broadcasts

If you tuned into the Canada vs. Czech Republic game on Friday night, you likely noticed a new innovation the NHL is testing for the tournament. Instead of seeing in-venue rinkboards, viewers on TV were served digital rinkboards with one brand owning all visible rinkboard real estate for a period of time during the broadcast. It was similar to that of a homepage takeover on a premium content website.

honda
Honda was one of the brands that took advantage of digital rinkboards during the Canada vs. Czech Republic TV broadcast.

Here’s my take on the digital rinkboards:

Pros:

  • Less noise and more impactful. The digital rinkboards offer a deeper impression for advertisers as they are not competing against other advertisers for attention.
  • Opportunity for more relevant messaging. The in-venue rinkboards are pretty much analog. They get changed once a season for the most part. The digital rinkboards allow the opportunity to do real-time messaging based on what’s happening during the game.
  • Opportunity for segmentation and better targeting. For example, local or regional broadcasts could have different advertisers than national broadcasts.
  • I was surprised by the quality of the digital rinkboard deployment. Baseball is a stationary sport for the most part but super imposed ads on the field during MLB games can sometimes be wonky. I expected this would be a real issue for a fast moving game like hockey but that wasn’t the case.
  • I didn’t think the ads were intrusive. It was essentially the same experience viewers have been experiencing for decades.

Cons:

  • There’s the risk of devaluing in-venue rink board sponsorships.
  • There was some commentary on social media that the ads were distracting.
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Overall, I think this is a win for the NHL and something I see being introduced for national broadcasts such as Hockey Night in Canada in the near future. While viewer experience is paramount, I think the negative sentiment around the ads being distracting can be addressed. For the NHL, the risk of devaluing in-venue rink sponsorships is outweighed by giving advertisers more control and value. For example, a local advertiser might just want to avail of an in-venue rinkboard to connect with fans in the stands, whereas a regional or national brand may want to avail of both in-venue and digital rinkboards during TV broadcasts. It brings some of the targeting capabilities of online advertising to the big screen for NHL partners.

Here’s a full list of brands who took advantage of digital rinkboards during Friday night’s broadcast:

  • Molson Canadian
  • Scotiabank
  • Air Canada
  • EA Sports
  • Sonnet
  • Honda
  • Rogers/Sportsnet
  • Autotrader
  • Esso
  • SAP
  • Tim Hortons

Adam Puddicombe

Adam Puddicombe is a digital marketing professional who, by day, works in the ad agency world, and by night, covers the intersection of Canadian sports, media, and technology. Adam holds a degree in commerce, with a focus in marketing, and previously worked for Hockey Night in Canada’s Play On! and the St. John’s Fog Devils of the QMJHL. Follow him on Twitter @adampuddicombe.