Will Advertising Tarps Cover Empty Arena Seats When NHL Play Resumes?

When the NHL eventually resumes play it will likely be in empty arenas, as health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic continue. And as NHL teams seek new revenue streams to address lost ticket and concession sales, we will also likely see many new means of advertising in NHL arenas, all tailored for the televised game experience.

Often used to cover blocks of unsold or unused stadium seats in NFL and MLB stadiums, we may even see advertising tarps cover all or parts of the empty seats in arenas when NHL action resumes. But will televised games be too cluttered?

Front Office Sports looked into an MLB proposal to cover empty seats with sponsored tarps. In 2019, 11% of league revenue came from sponsorships, while this year owners say they’ll lose more than $600,000 for every game played without fans.

Nielsen confirmed it is working with multiple professional leagues and teams to explore new revenue-generating opportunities. “It’s even more critical that we evaluate new opportunities to help our clients adjust to this new normal,” a Nielsen Sports spokesperson said.  “While we haven’t formally launched a new service, we are exploring several new concepts designed to help our clients extract replacement value once games restart without fans in stadiums and ballparks.”

But will televised games be too cluttered or distracting with additional advertising draped over seats around the arena?

“My only concern is clutter and broadcast angles,” Steve McNelley, senior vice president of consulting at marketing firm rEvolution, said. “How will different teams, entities, and venues make sure that those signs appear on television?”

One thing is certain, NHL teams are scrambling to research, review and generate new revenue streams, including in-arena advertising, all in time for the resumption of play.

Still, without fully understanding how empty stadiums will appear on broadcasts, the tarp-over-seat values may be tough to pin down. “It’ll be hard for both the brands and the teams to put a value against those assets until we fully understand the new broadcast landscape,” Steve McNelley, senior vice president of consulting at marketing firm rEvolution, told FOS.

“I think that you have a lot of questions to answer around whether tarp signage is of value,” McNelley said. “I should say that It’ll be hard for both the brands and the teams to put a value against those assets until we fully understand the new broadcast landscape. Without fans in seats, for example, does that change anything with camera angles or linear versus streaming options?”

Regardless of use, It’s probably safe to bet that televised NHL games will look vastly different when play resumes.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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