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.
Here’s my take on the digital rinkboards:
- 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.
- There’s the risk of devaluing in-venue rink board sponsorships.
- There was some commentary on social media that the ads were distracting.
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
- Air Canada
- EA Sports
- Tim Hortons