When the National Women’s Hockey League partners with brands, it tries to find unique ways that those deals can bring value to both players and its growing fan base.
The league’s most recent partnership agreement with AccuWeather, for example, serves as a means to provide fans and teams with real-time updates about inclimate weather that may impact commutes to and from games.
With the NWHL season being played in both indoor and outdoor venues across markets like Buffalo and Minneapolis, the partnership helps to raise awareness for the NWHL’s growing and local fan base, according to league founder and Commissioner Dani Rylan.
“We are in markets where climates can change throughout the winter,” said Rylan. “AccuWeather helps us best inform our fans so that they know what’s coming down the line.”
The NWHL season is generally played from October into the month of March. AccuWeather’s data is distributed to fans via its television network, website, mobile app, and local radio. No financial details of the partnership were disclosed.
“Our initial partnership with NWHL will be more about mitigating risk for fans, and allowing them to reach out to teams and fans to let them know what’s happening,” said Eric Danetz, AccuWeather’s chief business officer.
Relaying weather data is just the beginning of what AccuWeather can offer the NWHL, Danetz said. For one, AccuWeather’s data is already leveraged by companies like ESPN and FOX to create storytelling narratives on live game broadcasts. An example of this would be sportscasters highlighting Tom Brady’s winning record in inclimate weather on television.
That same information can additionally be used to influence decisions made by fans looking to place a wager on an NWHL game in the future. The opportunities are endless, sources said.
“We are both expecting the relationship to evolve over time and for us to further leverage AccuWeather’s technology,” said Rylan. “There is no such thing as a typical partnership in the NWHL. We do jersey patches, branded content, and are even open to selling the naming rights to the league, similar to the Barclays Premier League.”
For AccuWeather, partnering with the NWHL also helps to satisfy company ambitions of further growing its sports portfolio. While AccuWeather already boasts deals with aforementioned sports media companies, Pocono Raceway, and now the NWHL, the weather data provider is actively looking to form new partnerships within international sports like rugby or cricket as well, according to Danetz.
“If you look at brands advertising using sports platforms, we are slightly different because our currency is data,” said Danetz. “We are looking at different venues and leagues to provide value to the end-user, which in return allows us to raise brand awareness.”
Brands like AccuWeather have found particular interest in the NWHL’s policy of splitting all incoming sponsorship revenue with players evenly, the league said. The change went into effect last April, following negotiations with its players’ association.
In the months after the new system went into effect, the NWHL announced another round of funding in November and re-signed its first-ever sponsor Dunkin’ to another sponsorship deal.
The league also agreed to a three-year broadcasting deal with Twitch just before the start of the 2019 season. Sponsorship inventory available on the streaming service is expected to continue being filled over time, according to the NWHL.
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“We agreed on the formula because business and salaries need to align in order for the league to be sustainable,” Rylan said. “Brands feel as if they are not only strengthening us as an organization, but are also investing in the players directly which helps them further align with us.”