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NBC Sports Hopes to Move Hockey Fans to Goal: Stanley Cup Viewership

Millions of people tune in to the nation’s biggest sporting events, like the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup playoffs, but NBC Sports is learning that it may be best to speak to them in smaller groups, rather  than en masse.

For several years, NBC Sports has tested a variety of promotional stunts to draw attention to its annual broadcast of the NHL’s crowning contest. In 2016, for example, the NBCUniversal unit crafted a promo showing hockey stars’ childhood films, then comparing tykes on the ice to the real thing. But this year, the company and the NHL have opted to put their full marketing budget for the event into advertising that aims to inspire a range of different hockey audiences.

Fans “want to see relevant things. You want to see things you value and bring more value to you and your life and your plans for the evening,” said Jenny Storms, chief marketing office of NBC Sports & Olympics, in an interview.  In previous years, NBC Sports might have run promos in specific markets talking about the match-up that would involve a local team. This year, the company will push the story of each market’s local team much more robustly.

NBC Sports is set to run promotions on the media assets of its own parent company, including Comcast’s regional sports networks, but will also turn to cable networks that are not a part of NBCU; YouTube; gaming channels; and other media outlets. TV promos are being crafted for each market involved in the playoffs, featuring the on-air personnel who broadcast in each area as well as players from the team.

“The teams have such rabid fan bases,” said Storms, that it would be silly not to try to work more to engage them.

NBC Sports efforts to drill down for audience reflect a larger trend in the advertising world. More advertisers are pressing to reach very specific groups of consumers with content that is tailored not only to their interests, but the experience they are having when they encounter a commercial pitch.

The media company and the league work very closely, the result of a ten-year deal valued at $200 million the two parties signed in 2011 that makes NBCU properties the exclusive cable and broadcast homes of the NHL through the 2020-2021 season.

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