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Report: NHL looking to raise US$15m from 2020/21 helmet sponsors

League executive tells TSN inventory will be given to some existing partners as “make goods”.

22 December 2020 Sam Carp

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  • High-profile teams such as Maple Leafs and Canadiens eyeing deals worth US$1m for 2020/21 season
  • Helmet sponsorships beyond upcoming campaign could command US$2.5m for average team, according to analytics firm Navigate
  • NHL also names Guaranteed Rate as official mortgage partner

The National Hockey League (NHL) is hoping its teams could make a combined US$15 million from helmet sponsorships for the 2020/21 season, according to TSN.

The Canadian outlet said some of the North American ice hockey league’s higher-profile teams, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, could make as much as US$1 million from their deals, although small-market teams are likely to command much less.

In the immediate term, however, an unnamed NHL executive told TSN that teams do not consider helmet sponsorships as “newfound money” because the inventory will be given to some sponsors as “make goods” for games taking place behind closed doors. 

“[Ads on helmets] is not about greed,” the executive told TSN. “It's about saving jobs and people’s homes. Do you know how much money we are going to lose without customers in arenas? We are hemorrhaging money and we need to find any possible option for keeping our people employed.”

Sports Business Journal (SBJ) reported last week that the NHL is likely to approve helmet sponsors for the 2020/21 season, which will feature 56 games starting 13th January.

Sponsors will appear on both sides of a player’s helmet, according to SBJ, which said teams are likely to have the option to select one brand for all home games and another for all away fixtures.

Chicago-based analytics firm Navigate has estimated that helmet sponsorships beyond the upcoming campaign could represent a significant new revenue stream for NHL franchises, with deals likely to be worth as much as US$2.5 million in fair market value for an average team.

For now, the move is seen as a way to help teams recoup some revenue lost to games being played behind closed doors. The league’s revenue was down 14 per cent to US$4.4 billion during the 2019/20 season, according to Forbes, while operating income fell 68 per cent to US$250 million.

The NHL would also be the latest North American major league to open up new sponsorship inventory for its franchises in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, which saw teams miss out on crucial gameday revenue as the 2019/20 season was completed behind closed doors.

The National Basketball Association (NBA), which already allows teams to have jersey patch sponsors, has now permitted its franchises to sign partners for their practice jerseys, while also easing restrictions on deals with hard alcohol, casino and sports betting companies.

In other NHL sponsorship news, the league has named Guaranteed Rate as its official mortgage partner in the US.

The deal, which starts with the 2020/21 season, will see the Chicago-based company's brand displayed at marquee NHL events, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final.

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