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NHL Marketing Takes Center Ice

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The National Hockey League this week will unveil a marketing campaign to support the start of the 2008-09 season, the relaunch of NHL.com and "NHL Center Ice," the league's cable and satellite subscription service.

"Is this the year?" will be anchored by spots on Versus, the NHL Network and NHL.com, in addition to CBC, TSN and RDS in Canada. Support will include print and POP. Creative was handled in-house by the NHL. Y&R, New York and Toronto, served as creative consultants. Spend was not disclosed.

Four TV spots each feature a different NHL star: Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf, Patrick Kane and Henrik Lundqvist. In each of the spots, the players initially are seen in a photograph, which then comes to life as the athletes share their personal feelings about the game.

In his spot, Crosby is seen in a photo taken after his Pittsburgh Penguins lost the 2008 Stanley Cup finals to the Detroit Red Wings. "This is a tough one: Getting this close and not winning the Cup," Crosby says as he comes alive. "But I know it'll make our team even stronger . . . I never want to be in this photograph again." Supporting print shows a photo of Crosby heading to the ice with a determined look on his face. Text offers, "He probably has another two decades to win a [Stanley] Cup. But don't tell him that."

"This campaign speaks directly to our fans' anticipation and hopes at the start of the NHL season," said Brian Jennings, evp-marketing at the NHL, New York. "We're communicating this idea of possibilities in a very compelling and creative way, by capturing a single moment from last season and having our players use that moment to express their thoughts and hopes for the upcoming year."

A campaign to support the relaunch of NHL.com has NHL coaches and analysts visiting the homes of the parents of NHL players explaining how they can stay close to their sons by visiting the Web site. The theme: "The New NHL.com. For parents of NHL players, and fans everywhere."

The NHL also is launching a marketing campaign for "NHL Center Ice," which enables subscribers to see up to 40 games per week not in their local market. Creative for "The game lives where you do" explains to fans that regardless of where they live, NHL Center Ice allows them to stay close to their favorite teams and players. The effort will run on TV, radio, print, and Internet.