Honda will be the presenting sponsor of The Road to the NHL Winter Classic as it moves to NBCSN, the first time in seven years the hockey docuseries is airing on a commercial network.
The four episode series has its debut Wednesday night and will track players on the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres in the days leading up to the 10th anniversary of the outdoor Winter Classic, this year taking place at Citi Field in New York on New Year’s Day.
Honda has been a big NHL sponsor for a while and will get in-show product placement during one of the episodes. Although the show is airing on commercial TV, the league does not look at the series as a revenue generator. The Winter Classic game itself is sponsored by tiremaker Bridgestone.
“We’re not in it for making money,” says Brian Jennings, executive VP and chief branding officer of the NHL. Produced by Ross Greenberg, the acclaimed sports filmmaker, the series features costly production values and is mainly viewed as a promotion for the Winter Classic and for the league.
“We’re really proud of the work we did with HBO and Epix and the quality of their production and certainly the promotion that they have,” Jennings said. “One of the things as we met internally is this is such good content, the more story lines that can be shared, it’s the greatest pre-promotion vehicles that you can have leading into and then even beyond the Winter Classic game.”
Jennings says that after being on HBO and Epix, the NHL can expand the distribution of the show so it reaches more people. After they debut on NBCSN, episodes of the show will air on the NHL Network Sunday nights. On Fridays the episodes will be available on YouTube and Facebook, NHL.com, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. In Canada, Rogers’ Sportsnet will air the series and it will appear on the Sportsnet app.
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The series will be promoted on those networks with 15- and 30-second tune in spots. The league and the networks will also be promoting the series on their social channels, using highlights from past editions of the series.
Which the show shifting to a commercial network, it has been turned into a half-hour format. There’ will also be more attention payed to the language the players use on ice that is picked up by the camera crews.
Jennings said that the league took the sponsorship opportunity to Honda. “They are a big partner of ours, for sure,” he said. “They’re always willing to listen when we go to them with opportunities. When we reached with high-quality content, all of our partners are seeking that.”
The automaker was also attracted by the expanded distribution this year’s edition of the show will be getting.
Honda has a Clarity series of electronic vehicles coming out. The auto makers is also looing to reach younger, millennial drivers.
As part of the sponsorship, Honda will be featured in promotional materials on broadcast, digital and social. Three will be audio and visual mentions of Honda throughout the TV, broadcast and digital runs and the automaker will get two 30-second spots within each episode.