The National Hockey League is currently going through one of the most exciting periods of the season – the Stanley Cup playoffs with Game 1 set to kick off between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. But sadly, the coverage in China is minimal. For a sport so fast paced, full of action and provides such a colourful spectacle its a shame its not on TV or streaming in China. I can go to a expat sports bar and watch the action in the early morning Shanghai time but a few hundred expats in a market of 1.3 billion seems a waste of potential the NHL has to make hockey a big sport in China.
There are Hockey Leagues in Shanghai and Beijing but with hundreds of millions of people living in cities that get extremely cold its seems like a no brainer to get NHL on television and the web. Numerous sports get coverage on television and IPTV in China including Basketball, Tennis, Football(Soccer), Golf, Car Racing, Snooker, Volleyball, Swimming, Badminton, Table Tennis. Many of these I can watch live including NBA, China Basketball, Major Tennis Tournaments, China Super League (Soccer), Premier League, Bundesliga, La Lagia , Serie A, AFC, FIBA, FIVA, FINA, Formula 1, and most Chinese National Sports tournaments and many are replayed again the next day. So where is NHL?
NHL needs to realise the potential of NHL and put some money and promotion into getting it onto TV screens and video streaming sites including Youku, Tudou, PPTV and others. The older generation watch CCTV 5 and local sports channels and the young using video streaming sites. NHL needs official channels on these web platforms. Why? China is a large market and the merchandise and possibility for Chinese advertisers to start paying to sponsor teams, stadiums and TV ad spots is real. However, if the NHL is not seen on TV screens at home how do Chinese company, CEO’s and marketing manager know that the NHL exists?
Think of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa before that no one knew about Yingli Solar until they sponsored numerous billboard advertisements at the stadiums and where a key sponsor to the tune of between 35 to 50 million. The company got write ups in the New York Times, CNN, Businessweek, Business Insider and the flow on was huge demand and financing deals. Given the World Cup is watch by billions but the precedent is set.
The NHL only has to look at the NBA and the sponsorship of the Houston Rockets and the stadium billboards by Chinese companies – many would say that due to Yao Ming, but its also because millions watch NBA games every week during the season. Also NBA, Soccer Leagues and Tennis highlights get played on buses and trains in large cities in China giving more eyeballs to sponsors and coverage to the sport.
Aigo an electronics company in China sponsors Manchester United due to the large following by Chinese EPL fans. They also sponsor McLaren F1 team giving it promenient exposure on the track but also featured on the Aigo website along with a report about how much exposure McLaren get per year in F1.
NHL is missing an opportunity not just to broaden the appeal of NHL to Chinese but also gain sponsors for teams, stadiums and league. Its time they made a move with at least a website in Chinese and setting up something with video highlights.