Kraft Is About to Make Over Local Hockey Rinks in the U.S. Too

Partnership with NHL, NBC and others migrates from Canada

Hockey is part of the fabric of Canada where for the past eight years Kraft has spent $1.6 million to refurbish local rinks and turn them into showcases for televised, preseason NHL games. Now, the food giant is taking its grassroots push to America.

And while football is king in the U.S., there are still plenty of hockey-hungry towns—particularly in the Midwest and Northeast. So, naturally, Kraft will seek participants from those regions in particular, according to Dino Bianco, evp and president of Kraft Beverages.

The makeover takes the form of a contest called Kraft Hockeyville in which towns nominate rinks for refurbishing. The winner gets a top cash prize, with several runners-up getting lesser amounts. For the first U.S. contest, the winner will get $150,000 to upgrade its rink and the chance to host a preseason game next fall.

As with the Canadian contest, the U.S. initiative involves the NHL, the NHL Players Association and NBC Sports. USA Hockey is a partner as well. For Kraft, the goal of the program is simple: reach families where they live and in turn, burnish its corporate image.

"This is about building stronger communities, obviously community values, community pride," Bianco told Adweek. "One of the things we learned in Canada was there's such a connection within the community and that connection within the community also connects around food."

As such, Kraft's U.S. debut of Hockeyville will include in-store promotions around brands such as Planters, Oscar Mayer, Mac & Cheese, Cracker Barrel, Maxwell House and Jell-O. TV and digital advertising also is planned—from Anomaly—with public relations and event support from Edelman and Mosaic, respectively, a Kraft representative said.

With the expansion of Hockeyville, Kraft, a 30-year sponsor of the NHL in Canada, becomes a sponsor in the U.S. and accordingly, a partner in NHL events such as the All-Star Game, Winter Classic and Stanley Cup Playoffs. NHL chief operating officer John Collins described Kraft as an "instrumental partner in our efforts to grow the game." 

The expansion represents a double-down by Kraft, as Canada will continue its version of Hockeyville as well. This year's winner was the Sylvan Lake Multiplex in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, which hosted a game between the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes last week.