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National Hockey League Case Study

Digitally Enhanced Dasherboards (DED) represent the National Hockey League’s (NHL) latest advertising innovation, which was implemented by the end of last year. This new advertising format was introduced to replace the previous system on arena rink boards, allowing the overlay of advertisements and enhancing the in-game experience with statistics or celebrations.

DED offers the opportunity to showcase more national sponsors and local advertisers, as it allows broadcasts to constantly change which advertisers appear. Ads are sold in 30-second increments based on the game clock, similar to commercial slots.

The expectation for this system is to present entirely different feeds on the boards worldwide, depending on international markets and inventory demands. It even allows European sportsbooks to display their ads on the boards, appealing to audiences in their home market with the appropriate legal clearance.

When the NHL needed to assess the effectiveness of this game-changing advertising format, they turned to MediaScience.

A year has passed since the implementation, and despite the clear advantages, digital ads have faced criticism from fans due to various issues, including artificiality, technical glitches, and distracting moving advertisements that interfere with the audience’s game experience. However, during the 2022-23 season, these issues have been tweaked and improved.

Trust is Built on Science

The final verdict was given by SponsorUnited, a company specializing in tracking sports sponsorship data. In June, SponsorUnited reported that the NHL had seen a 21% year-over-year increase in sponsorship revenue, with 700 brands being involved with the DED.

“As highlighted by ESPN, SponsorUnited documented a 21% YoY surge in sponsorship revenues by the National Hockey League (NHL), driven significantly by their cutting-edge DED dashboard ad platform embraced by over 700 brands. While any groundbreaking initiative can face initial challenges, continuous improvements should enhance the experience for both fans and brands. Excited for what’s to come!”

–Bob Lynch, Founder & CEO SponsorUnited

Keith Wachtel, the NHL’s Chief Business Officer and Executive Vice President of Global Partnerships, stated that research has indicated that fans will become increasingly comfortable watching a game enhanced with DED over time. This was further confirmed by the research firm MediaScience, which conducts neurometric eye-scanning.

“In total, 12,000 pieces of creative were built in the NHL’s hub for the digital boards. SponsorUnited found that the NHL had “eclipsed all other leagues with close to 90%” of all virtual signage assets in televised sports”.
–Keith Wachtel