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Disney Cleaning Up With Stanley Cup Playoff Ad Sales

  • Disney expected to rake in over $40 million in ad sales.
  • Warner Bros. Discovery Sports signs over 70 advertisers.
Patrick Kane of New York Rangers
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

With excitement building for Monday’s start of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Walt Disney Co. is making a strong showing in hockey advertising sales.

Disney’s ad sales unit is expected to book over $40 million in sales for its Stanley Cup coverage, sources told Front Office Sports.

Disney declined to comment on dollar spend. But Jim Minnich, senior vice president of revenue and yield management for Disney Advertising, said the company had made good progress with its efforts.

“We’re nearly sold out. We have a couple of avails here and there round by round,” Minnich said. “We’re hoping for good, competitive, long series across the first and second (rounds) and Conference Finals.”

Among the categories coming in strong, added Minnich are: consumer packaged goods, retail, tech, and streaming. 

“Sports remains strong from a demand standpoint,” he said.

Hockey consumers are known to be fiercely loyal to brands that support teams and their sport. Despite the economic headwinds buffeting the sports industry, Disney is cleaning up sales-wise in the second year of its seven-year NHL media rights deal. 

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Over the next four days, Disney will air 13 first-round games on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN+. This season, the NHL on ABC averaged 1 million viewers, up 19% from last year.  

  • Disney has signed 17 sponsors and 142 advertisers across 64 categories for playoff coverage on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN+, and sister broadcast network ABC.
  • Geico will sponsor every telecast, with the company’s brand logo appearing on opening animations, billboards, and logo placements.
  • Luxury car maker Lexus will sponsor the First Intermission report, while Discover will sponsor the Second Intermission Report. Subway will sponsor the Overtime Intermission reports.
  • Multiple advertisers are buying in-game integrations for playoff coverage, including GoDaddy Starting Lineups, SAP Coaching Insights App, and Chipotle Winning Ingredients. Progressive, EGO, and eBay Motor will sponsor Game Recap features.
  • ESPN will regularly air its weekly pregame show, “The Point,” as a lead-in throughout the playoffs. Mercedes, Synchrony Bank, and Navy Federal Credit Union will sponsor the show. Discover, meanwhile, will present two episodes of “The Drop,” ESPN’s NHL Digital Live show. Chipotle will sponsor “SportsCenter on Snapchat” during select playoff windows.

The NHL’s two media partners – Disney’s ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery Sports’ TNT/TBS – alternate coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals.

This year TNT will televise the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time ever. TNT and TBS will combine to televise 56 Playoff games.

Similar to Disney, WBD Sports sees “a groundswell of interest from advertising partners,” according to a spokesman. 

The media giant has already booked over 70 advertisers, according to the spokesman. The top-selling categories based on total ad spend are automotive, financial/business services, beverages/coffee/soft drinks, and insurance.

Similar to Disney, Geico is sponsoring WBD Sports’ overall coverage. Verizon is sponsoring the “NHL on TNT/TBS Face Off” pregame show, while Cadillac will sponsor the post-game show. Lexus and Discover will sponsor the Intermission shows. 

TNT averaged 364,000 viewers for regular season NHL games this year, up 1%. The network’s Sunday audiences took a big jump, averaging 555,000 viewers, up 52% from last season.

While WBD Sports will get the Stanley Cup this year, Disney will televise its pick of the NHL’s Conference Finals.

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