Raising a Cup to 5 Great NHL Social Media Activations

By building compelling social media activations on the most relevant, fan-friendly platforms, the NHL is keeping fans more engaged more often.

In 2015, the sports industry saw the beginnings of a monumental partnership. The digital-rights mega-deal between the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball Advanced Media showed that the NHL had done an outstanding job of cultivating its business across web, video, mobile and social. With MLBAM plunking down $100 million annually for NHL digital rights, it was also evident that MLBAM saw potential for even further growth of the league’s digital platforms.

A little more than one year later, it’s easy to see that potential being recognized. NHL.com has been completely redesigned and optimized for storytelling, particularly with video and imagery. The NHL App, formerly known as NHL GameCenter Live, has been given a fresh user interface, as well as updated and customized for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And the NHL’s social media marketing platforms continue to innovate, with activations that are fun, fan-friendly and interactive.

This emphasis on digital, mobile and social makes perfect sense. Not only has the NHL historically had the most tech-savvy fans (research has shown that NHL fans have the most smartphones, HDTVs and high-speed-internet connections), but the league also has unique business challenges that digital, and social media in particular, can solve.

All sports are inherently tribal, but this is especially true for the NHL. Hockey fans are less likely to watch a game that doesn’t involve their favorite team, so even though the Stanley Cup is the most recognized trophy in all of sports, and the playoffs represent the most competitive hockey in the world, fans have historically tuned out when their favorite team is eliminated from contention.

By building compelling social media activations on the most relevant, fan-friendly platforms, the NHL is keeping fans more engaged more often. Thus, the league is strategically reducing fan tribalism and boosting the size of its audience where it tends to matter most–on television.

#MyPlayoffsMoment video

The NHL asked fans to video-capture and share their favorite playoffs moments at the game, at the bar and at home by using the #MyPlayoffsMoment hashtag for the chance to have their footage featured across NHL media–social, web, mobile and TV.

Why it works: With mobile phones in everyone’s pocket, every sports league has a legion of camera-people at their disposal. By cleverly leveraging the videos across all of its distribution channels, this activation gives fans their shot at 15 minutes of fame when they express their uber-fandom.


Twitter Mirrors

Designed by Twitter to convey the fun and utility of its platform as an ideal second-screen experience, the Twitter Mirror has been around for a couple of years, but the NHL used it in an innovative way to keep fans in all markets engaged and active. Leading into the playoffs, the league hosted live video question-and-answer sessions with players Brian Gionta and Shane Doan.

Why it works: Fans love to brush up against their hockey heroes, even if only virtually. The video format was particularly effective–The #AskDoan Q&A received more than 2 million impressions from just 11 tweets. Also, by engaging with two players from markets out of the playoffs, (Gionta in Buffalo and Doan in Arizona), the initiative activated many fans that may have otherwise been done with hockey for the season.


EA Sports NHL 17 cover vote

EA Sports and the NHL cleverly teamed up to let fans decide which NHL player to feature on the cover of NHL17. They hosted the balloting on Twitter, where it benefits from a viral coefficient.

Why it works: Any sports gamer will tell you that the cover position on any EA Sports title is a coveted place to be and an indication of superstardom. The intersection of hockey, social media and video gaming is where the most passionate hockey fans dwell.

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