Ice hockey isn’t the most popular sport in the world, but it’s in the top 10. In North America, the NHL is one of the biggest sporting organizations around, with 3.6 million viewers tuning in to watch the final game of the 2021 Stanley Cup.
But the NHL must keep reaching out to new audiences from different cultures. Of course, it’s essential that it consolidates on its existing customer base, too, but new audiences could be secured with the following:
Connecting Via the Gaming Industry
The power of gaming shouldn’t be underestimated. Every demographic is interested in video games because the effects are the same across the board. Sports titles, for example, can inspire men and women to get out of the house and try new activities or provide an escape when life is stressful. Using the gaming sector to engage new audiences is particularly wise when you look at the numbers. For example, people of South American heritage in North America are among the fastest-growing groups when it comes to video gaming, with 19% of them defining themselves as enthusiasts. The figure for caucasian males is 7%.
Also, it’s a tried and tested system that’s proven to get results. Take Canada as a case study. Hockey is a national pastime in the Great White North, giving the sport one of its largest audiences. Yet gaming has helped to boost engagement rates by offering officially licensed releases that are hockey-themed. Break Away is a fantastic example as it’s an online casino offering, not a traditional video game, and it still encourages sports fans to play, highlighting their influence when they adopt a sports-based subject matter. This is just one of the many slot machines Canada has access to, suggesting that this is a growing industry. Of course, the NHL series by EA Sports is another lucrative element of the organization’s brand that pulls in viewers. The same now applies to Twitch as the NHL World Gaming Championships were open to entrants from around the world in early 2021.
If the NHL can gain the interest of a wider demographic, then there’s every reason it’ll be a success considering the popularity of video gaming in other cultures.
Moving to ESPN
We’ve waited 17 years to type this …
— ESPN (@espn) March 10, 2021
The fifth and final game of the 2021 Stanley Cup was the last match to be aired on NBC. The NHL has moved to ESPN after penning a TV rights deal that will initially last for seven years. However, there’s an option to extend if the relationship is successful.
It’s an excellent move for ice hockey because too many of the sport’s institutions don’t appeal to outsiders. For instance, the Vegas Golden Knights are one of the few franchises to broadcast games through a Spanish-speaking channel. Why would people of Latin heritage bother tuning in if they can’t listen to the action in their preferred language? What’s healthy about ESPN is that the station obtained the rights to air NHL fixtures in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, opening the sport up to a plethora of supporters.
What’s important about this move is that it can be repackaged internationally. Nothing’s stopping ESPN from doing the same in Europe, Asia and Australia. Sure, the demand may be lower, but a straightforward way to bridge the gap is to show matches in these regions to raise awareness. The new TV deal will do that in Latin America, paving the way for a global strategy in the future.
The NHL is focusing on this community at the moment, but the scheme is flexible as it can be used in several circumstances.