Is This the Year? Thinking About NHL Marketing

I was shoveling the driveway today and it gave me a lot of time to think. Way much more time than I would have liked. I need a snowblower for days like this.

Anyway…

One of the things I was thinking about was the NHL’s latest marketing campaign. I complain about the way the league markets itself quite a bit but it’s harder to do that with their “Is This the Year?” commercial.

After the lockout I complained that EA and Molson had better “hockey’s back” commercials than the NHL itself did. Now, the league has finally done something right.

The “Is This the Year?” idea is a great one. Playing on the fact that anytime you watch a game, it’s history in the making. Any night you could turn on the TV and see something that’s never happened before.

That’s not hyperbole, it’s fact. How many people tuned into the Detroit – Columbus matchup on November 24th and saw the fastest two goals ever scored by the Red Wings? That’s a small thing but it validates the point the commercial makes.

But while I love the idea, the execution has three flaws that I consider fatal.

The commercial opens with Ryan Miller asking “Is this the year the Cup comes to Buffalo?” Eric Staal and Sidney Crosby add “To Carolina?” “To Pittsburgh?”

I understand that the players the commerical uses – Miller, Staal, Crosby, Vincent Lecavalier and Alexander Ovechkin – are the ones that the league wants to promote, but to include Carolina and Pittsburgh in that question is slightly ridiculous. Carolina won the Cup just two years ago and Pittsburgh won twice in the 1990s.

Would it have been so difficult to have Anze Kopitar ask “To Los Angeles?” with Marian Gaborik adding “To Minnesota?” It’s not hard to find teams that haven’t won the Cup that also have stars that can be used to promote the game.

One of the greatest lines in the commercial has Eric Staal asking “Is this the year we finally figure out who’s dad’s favorite?” If you know who he is and that he is one of three brothers in the NHL (with another on the way), that’s an excellent bit. The problem is that casual fans won’t know that. Would it have been so tough to add a two-second establishing shot of Eric and Jordan (and Marc, even, though the league probably doesn’t care about him as much) with their backs to the camera and nameplates visible, establishing their names?

Finally, with the commercial closing as the players all repeat the line of “Is this the year?” I love that Ovechkin’s line is in Russian. That said, would it have been so hard to include a Swede, a Czech, or any other nationality in to truely showcase the NHL’s international flavor? If you worked in Kopitar in the opening, he’s available to represent Slovenia. Gaborik could represent Slovakia. The homer Red Wings fan in me says Henrik Zetterberg could be the token Swede.

In all, I’ll admit that they’re small nit-picks. The NHL took a great leap forward here, considering their previous advertising attempts. I’m happy to see that they are trying to improve and hope that they can keep it up.

Author: Clark Rasmussen

Clark founded the site that would become DetroitHockey.Net in September of 1996 with no idea what it would lead to. He continues to write for the site and executes the site's design and development.