NHL reserves April for playoff frenzy

By Published on .

NCAA `March Madness' inspires new activity around Stanley Cup

The National Hockey League is branding its Stanley Cup playoff season in the hopes of tapping the same kind of fan response generated by college basketball's "March Madness."

The league has drafted marketing and broadcast partners Anheuser-Busch, Chrysler Corp.'s Dodge division, ESPN, Fox, J.C. Penney Co., MasterCard International and bank MBNA Corp. to participate in its four-week, multimillion-dollar push to compel fans to "Get Cup Crazy" with the start of playoffs April 16.

DEBUTING THIS WEEK

The slogan will be introduced to consumers this week with TV and radio commercials from NHL Productions featuring the Prince song "Let's Go Crazy."

The TV spot will run during the time the NHL is allotted on ESPN and Fox broadcasts; radio commercials will air in all dayparts on Westwood One's syndicated radio network. More spots will break later this spring and team-specific spots will get time on local broadcasts and in arenas.

The NHL previously crafted such integrated marketing campaigns to open its seasons, using slogans like "Game One."

"With `Get Cup Crazy' we complete the circle that begins with `Game One,' moves into our all-star game break and now ends with this," said Rick Dudley, president, NHL Enterprises.

PLAYOFF TIME SPECIAL

"Playoff time is the special time of year for all sports when we see peak activity from our business partners," he added. "Our goal was to give our time a rallying cry."

Other leagues are looking at branding segments of their seasons. This fall the National Football League will execute an annual promotion to kick off its season, and midway through the schedule will begin promoting the remaining games as "The Second Season."

For the NHL, Dodge will drop 10 million free standing inserts in 21 markets the first week of May. Dodge will also entice consumers to test drives with a discount offer for licensed merchandise at J.C. Penney's Simply for Sports in-store boutiques and a sweepstakes that gives away tickets to next year's NHL All-Star Game.

MasterCard is leading an effort to promote "Cup Crazy" at retail with in-store promotions. MBNA will distribute a "Crazy"-theme national direct mail piece the last week of April as part of its solicitation of an NHL MasterCard.

Copyright April 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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