Professional hockey is having a moment, as evidenced by its record-breaking 2022-2023 season.
NHL team sponsorship revenue rose 21% over last year totaling $1.28B, outpacing growth in all other major pro sports leagues, including the NFL. This dazzling jump was fueled by a record 70 sponsors this season, including new global-level sponsors, which numbered 11 this season compared to just five brands four years ago.
Viewership is also climbing. ABC and ESPN combined showed 50 NHL games this season, 22 more than last, averaging 629K viewers— a 6% increase over last year (excluding limited windows where the NHL competed with NFL broadcasts). ABC alone averaged around one million viewers for this season’s games, up 19% versus the 2021-2022 season. The first round of the NHL playoffs was the most watched of all time, up 18% over last year through the first 14 games.
In another first, the NHL unveiled jersey patch sponsorships this year, with just 13 of the league’s 32 teams having inked deals so far— presenting a prime opportunity for brands to buy into this high-profile asset. Meanwhile, the league is strategically overhauling its entire sponsorship model, creating multifaceted partnerships that showcase social causes and embrace new categories and assets— namely heavy equipment and industrial power (Caterpillar) and NFTs (Sweet)— driving ROI and elevating the fan experience.
But the NHL’s debut of digitally enhanced dasherboards (DEDs) marked arguably the most exciting introduction not only within the league, but across all professional sports this season. Seven years in the making, DEDs represent the next frontier in NHL advertising, enabling the digital replacement of camera-visible ads within local, national and international NHL game broadcasts. While the Automotive sector leads in DED exposure so far, other categories— including Sports Betting & Fantasy, whose NHL sponsorships surged a staggering 185% this season— are quickly piling on. In years to come, every broadcast of every game could feature completely different ads on the boards worldwide— a transformative technology poised to change the sponsorship game within the league and beyond, as marketers across the entire professional sports sponsorship spectrum embrace its incredible potential.
For all these reasons and more, we’re excited to present the NHL Marketing Partnerships Report 2022-2023. Authored jointly by SponsorUnited’s Marketing Research & Insights, Analytics and Marketing teams, it delivers an in-depth analysis of more than 2,300 brands, 360 assets, and over 44,000 social posts between Aug 23, 2022, and May 16, 2023.