Brands turn to gamification to reach hockey fans during the NHL playoffs

Great Clips, New Amsterdam Vodka and Kruger Products are reaching out to hockey fans during the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they’re taking a gamification approach to their ads to do so. The brands see the playoffs as a unique opportunity to boost awareness and gain new customers through interactive offerings.

Similar to its approach to March Madness, Great Clips is encouraging all hockey fans to share photos and videos that reflect their unique styles and highlight their unique characteristics for a chance to be recognized in its first-ever, virtual Hockey Hair Hall of Fame. The effort is running from April 17 to May 7. And in addition to weekly prizes, Great Clips and a panel of judges will select six inaugural members of the Hockey Hair Hall of Fame who will receive free haircuts for a year and a signed hockey jersey from NHL All Star Jack Hughes, with one inductee receiving a grand prize package.

Great Clips’ campaign is part of its five year partnership with the NHL involving creative marketing mixes during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The financial agreement was not disclosed.

According to Lisa Hake, vp of marketing and communications at Great Clips, the difference between what the brand did during March Madness and the NHL playoffs is that it did not use its college athletes this time around. Instead, ad spots feature a roster of hockey professionals, such as the New Jersey Devils’ Hughes and Canadian hockey star and gold medalist Sarah Nurse, as well as social influencers, including TikTok dancers Cost n’ Mayor, “America’s Got Talent” finalists the Cline Twins and hockey fan Jesse Pollock, who are helping to extend Great Clips’ call to action with their own fans.

“In addition to paid amplification, we’ve really put an emphasis on leveraging the popular creators who are hockey fans,” said Hake. “Kids, amateurs and hockey fans proudly sport and talk about their own styles and flows, and we felt the time was right to spotlight, memorialize and reward those unique, individual Hockey Hair styles.”

Hake said that the talent they used for the ad spot have all recently experienced Great Clips haircuts at local salons and created content they thought their fans would ultimately enjoy engaging with that is also authentic to their personalities and fandom. All of the content was published on their own social media accounts on April 17.

“Our fans are educated, tech-savvy and socially engaged in conversation around our game, which makes social media a fun and compelling way to engage with them via our partnerships and the activations that we co-created,” said Evin Dobson, NHL’s senior vice president of partnership marketing.

In addition to allocating marketing budget for its contest via marketing emails, in-app messages and social media platforms such as TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, Great Clips has invested in digital out of home on NHL’s digitally enhanced dasher boards around the ice rinks during the Stanley Cup Playoffs to extend its reach to television viewers. A similar strategy is being used by WWE during premium live events, when ring apron displays are utilized for sponsorship opportunities. Hake did not provide any specific figures for the amount of advertising Great Clips spent on this year’s NHL tournament.

Meanwhile, NHL and New Amsterdam Vodka are offering hockey fans a new kind of insurance as part of the vodka brand’s Stanley Cup campaign: New Amsterdam Win(surance). During post-season celebrations, this “insurance” can cover spilled drinks, food shortages and any other playoffs-related mishaps. A $100 HSA (hockey savings account) card will be given to Win(surance) policyholders in case of injury.

For green energy brand Kruger Paper Products’ part, it partnered with the NHL for its “Find The Cup and Win Contest,” in which the brand has hidden a marked cup within its products somewhere in Canada. The first person to find its location will win a $10,000 Stanley Cup Final VIP Experience, including round-trip travel to the Stanley Cup Finals, hotel, two NHL player-signed items and front-row seats.

According to Steve Dunphy, executive creative director of Chase Design Group, diehard sports fans are becoming more excited for the spring sports season, which brings both NHL and NBA playoffs along with the MLB season. The season is filled with buzzer-beaters, overtimes and upsets that these fans are devoted to.

“In this wonderful frenzy of texting, cheering and stat-checking, fans build up a competitive appetite for what some would argue is the best part of the game-day experience and brands that embrace the competitive spirit of the season,” said Dunphy. “By creating gamified social campaigns, [they] are putting themselves in the seat and screen right next to their consumers and will see big wins.”

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