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The Super Bowl is one of the biggest sports events of the year. Last Sunday night, the NFL delivered one of its best Super Bowls in history.
In the United States, football is the most popular sport. On Sundays during the fall and winter months, most people will go to church in the morning, and watch football for the remainder of the day. The NFL is king, and there is no other professional sports league that has more power and influence across the continent.How has the NFL become the most popular and powerful sports league in North America? What can the NHL learn from the NFL to draw new fans? Will the NHL ever catch up to the NFL in popularity?
Let’s dive in to how the NHL can improve their product, and how they can take some notes from the NFL’s success.
If there is one area that the NFL has the NHL beat, it is with the power of ESPN. ESPN has “Monday Night Football” which is one of America’s most watched football games every single week during football season.
In addition to “Monday Night Football,” ESPN broadcasts shows like “NFL Insiders” and “NFL Live”, which are shows dedicated to covering the NFL every day of the year.
There is not a day that goes by where Sportscenter does not talk about the NFL. Sports fans hear and see the NFL on ESPN every single day.
While the NFL’s coverage on ESPN is heavy, the NHL’s coverage on the network is not. The only NHL coverage one will see on ESPN daily is a 2-minute segment featuring Barry Melrose. He will usually cover a game or two and will show the highlights of the selected games. There are no shows on ESPN that are dedicated to daily NHL news. The NHL is virtually non-existent on ESPN programming.
This is a big problem for the NHL. While the NHL is currently affiliated with NBC Sports, NBC Sports does not have the same power and exposure that ESPN has. Sports fans in America will likely tune in to ESPN programming first for all of their sports needs.
I support the NHL signing a new deal with ESPN as soon as possible. The revenue and exposure that ESPN brings to all of the other major professional sports leagues is incredible. Hockey on ESPN has worked in the past, and it needs to become a part of the future.
From sky cams to pylon cams, the NFL has the NHL beat with modern on-field technology.
The NHL has recently developed some new technology in the form of Gameboy-like tablets for on-ice officials and cameras along the bluelines for offsides. Hockey fans are periodically seeing referee cameras on the ice now too.
I am a supporter of more on-ice cameras, especially along the red line inside the net. I feel that the NHL needs to invest more into making their nets more transparent, so that there are no more controversial goal calls. I would also like to see more technology focused with the pucks. Is there any way sensors could be put inside of pucks to help determine where pucks are located on the ice? I am not a technology wizard, but I would like to see the NHL invest in new technology to improve the fan experience.
MARKETING OF STAR PLAYERS
From Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers to Antonio Brown, the NFL does an excellent job of promoting its best players. It is not uncommon to see a top NFL star featured in a regular TV commercial today.
Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Cam Newton are just some of the NFL players featured in various TV commercials one will see daily. Who could ever forget Aaron Rodgers starring in the State Farm commercials?
While NFL stars are shining in the commercial spotlight, I feel the NHL comes nowhere near to this. The NHL needs to let their players have more freedom to do appearances on TV ads and other entertainment shows. Marketing and branding are keys to growth. There is nothing wrong with added exposure to the NHL’s top players. Star players will draw more attention to the sport from the casual fan.
By: George Foussekis