NHL exec meets with sponsors as lockout continues
TORONTO — With no end in sight to the NHL lockout, the league is doing all it can to ease the concerns of its sponsors.
A small group of key clients gathered Wednesday afternoon in Toronto for an audience with chief operating officer John Collins, who provided an update on labour negotiations and took questions from participants.
A source indicated that representatives from Molson, Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, Kraft, Sirius XM and Scotiabank participated in the meeting. One attendee called the session “productive” and applauded Collins for taking part.
“They were very transparent with us,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “I was looking around the room and the long-term, cumulative contract dollars around the table were probably at the $100-million mark. It’s a significant chunk for the league.”
The sponsors are an important group for the NHL to interact with during the labour dispute. Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly have held a series of conference calls with business partners in recent months in an effort to keep everyone informed.
Sponsorships played a significant role in the immense growth the league enjoyed after the 2004-’05 lockout. Twenty-two new partners signed on with the NHL over that period as it moved towards a calendar built around signature events, such as the Winter Classic and revamped all-star weekend.
With the NHL on hold, sponsors have been forced to abandon plans to activate against the league and some have started channelling money into other projects. Typically, campaigns and product launches take months to pull together — posing a problem for league partners given the uncertainty brought on by the lockout.