Flames vs. Oilers: Canada is on 🔥
The Battle of Alberta: Nothing excites the NHL fan base in the homeland of hockey like this kind of playoff series between two rivals. It is the sixth playoff duel with the historically clear advantage for the Oilers (4-1 wins). But not only the sporting content and the emotions ensure enthusiasm. Because this playoff series is a gift for the marketers in Canada.
Written by Joël Ch. Wuethrich
From a Canadian point of view, the Stanley Cup series between the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers is the big highlight of the second round. And not only from a sporting point of view and in terms of the immense rivalry. The “Battle of Alberta” is a gift for marketers and broadcasters and generally for the entire media industry and value chain. Now you can see how important the Oilers’ and Flames’ wins in Game 7 of the first round were. And especially why the Oilers fans cheered along when Johnny Gaudreau skated in overtime against the Dallas Stars.
Who will be Team Canada of the 2022 Playoffs?
Before the start of the playoff, the question was asked: Who will be Team Canada this time? In 2021 it was the Canadiens de Montréal and this year the Toronto Maple Leafs, as a team domiciled in Canada, should represent the motherland of ice hockey in the Stanley Cup playoffs. As is well known, things turned out differently and now the country is feverish with the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.
There are several reasons why this second-round duel will break many TV ratings and other media records: On the one hand, we are happy that at least one team based in Canada will be in the semi-finals and hope that we will be able to play until the end again looking forward to a Canadian team winning the Stanley Cup. It would be the end of a dry spell that has lasted since 1993 (Montréal) with many bitter final defeats since then.
As in similar situations before, in Canada the fans will unconditionally support the team from Canada, which is still in the running for the cup at the end. It doesn’t matter if, paradoxically, many Canadians in the US teams are trying to prevent exactly that. Of course, this starting position feeds the interest and consumption of the Stanley Cup playoffs in Canada even more than before – in every respect.
A highlight in terms of marketing
The second reason the Battle of Alberta is a “gift” to the NHL: Commercialization is peaking. Record sales are already expected in the merchandising area based on previous sales online and at the points of sale. The Red Mile on 17 Avenue SW in Calgary is filled with tens of thousands as it was in 2014, and in the cities of Calgary and Edmonton the entire value chain will be increased many times over with everyone who generates direct or indirect sales through the Stanley Cup playoffs. But not just in Alberta, but amazingly across Canada. That’s the difference to the USA, where enthusiasm for a team flares up locally and not nationwide.
And of course it’s a gift for the media: both in TV consumption and in the media sector as a whole. Short-term investments in local and national media formats such as TV and online advertising as well as other promotional marketing measures skyrocketed. Already in the first round duel between the Flames and Stars, 1.2 million spectators watched game 7 (on average it was 1.01 million over all seven games – an increase of 99 percent). You have to know that the games in the west usually have fewer spectators from the east due to the time change. This viewer average on TV was already exceeded in the first games (figures not yet published at the time of going to press). It is of course interesting that the “Battle” in the USA only arouses interest among NHL freaks, while in Canada all duels are traditionally followed closely. In Canada, many also watch the games on local sports channels such as RDS or TSN.
Top ratings and higher media spend
In this context, it should be noted that the first round of the 2022 playoffs for ESPN and Turner Sports were among the most successful in terms of ratings since the introduction of cable television. Games on ESPN, ESPN2, TNT and TBS mobilized an average of 768,000, a 59 percent increase compared to 2021 on NBCSN, CNBC and USA Network. In the Canadian market, the increase compared to 2021 was much lower, although the drastic audience restrictions in the 2021 playoffs were still in effect in Canada. Turner Sports held the record for first-round viewership with the seventh game between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins (on TBS on May 15) with 2.3 million. Followed by Game 7 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs on TNT with 1.7 million. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who always wraps up the TV deals: “The expectations are exceeded. The Walt Disney Company, ESPN, ABC, HULU, ESPN+, Turner have great platforms and do a great job in promotion. And if you look at the game plan in round 2, you can expect a lot again.”