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(Aug. 20, 2001) -- The National Hockey League is going for its own power play and has tapped sports marketing and online firm Ignite Media, Chicago, as a partner to market its Web site, as well as drive traffic to the site to pump up e-commerce sales.

But the deal includes more than just Web site ads and traffic. Ignite will also be involved in developing sponsorships for the NHL logo, the Stanley Cup logo and the All-Star Game. The NHL is the first of the four major sports leagues to outsource its online advertising, according to Ignite executives.

Ignite President-CEO Hank Adams figures that, despite the dot-com demise, fans of the NHL will still deluge NHL.com with hits, still follow their favorite teams and still make purchases from the site. Now he must convince the advertisers it still works.

"From the standpoint of success, it hasn't been questioned much in the consumer area," Mr. Adams said. "The challenge is going forward to prove it to marketers."

A dollar figure for the deal was not announced, but the NHL spent just over $1.5 million on NHL.com online from January to May of this year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. The NHL spent $5.1 million in all measured media January through May.

Ignite is already partnered with several NFL teams, including the New York Giants, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Ladies Professional Golf Association and Arena Football. Ignite will represent and extend sponsorship opportunities for NHL.com and NHL-controlled inventory across team and affiliate sites.

The NHL did not have figures for Internet purchases on its Web site, but Keith Ritter, the league's senior VP-new business, said the NHL was pleased with the traffic on the site."We've seen huge surges when we do things like launch our broadband section," Mr. Ritter said. "Hockey fans generate as much, if not more, traffic on the site as other [sports]." -- Rich Thomaselli

Copyright August 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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