How the NHL Creates a Great Audience Experience

The National Hockey League playoffs are naturally a time when the NHL gains more attention, but for its fans, the NHL creates an engagement all year. Although the NHL has a relatively small fan base compared to some other sports leagues, its following is dedicated, young, and hip – thanks in large part to the way the league creates a great audience experience. Here’s how the NHL wins:

Technology, Technology, Technology
The NHL is arguably the most tech-savvy of all the major sports leagues, allowing audiences to view games and engage with content on a variety of platforms. Every game is recorded with high-definition capability, making games look great on HD screens. The NHL’s contract with ESPN includes a number of tech features, including HD, Internet Rights, Wireless, Video on Demand (VOD) and ESPN Classic. Consequently, audiences (especially younger, more tech-savvy audiences) can view hockey games on any device with high-quality video.
The NHL’s use of technology to improve audience experience highlights the importance of applying technology and marketing to give people what they want. The NHL engages with its audience on their terms. Many viewers place great stock in the incredible definition that’s now possible on televisions and computer screens. So the NHL strives to ensure that it meets those needs.

Exclusive Online Content
NHL fans find a hub of up-to-date information, statistics, and exclusive content on, which serves as a highly effective virtual environment. By comprehensively compiling important information, the NHL establishes itself as the go-to source not just for games, but also for information. Fans have access to:

  • Blog posts available exclusively on the website
  • Fantasy hockey stats
  • Up-to-date game stats
  • Polls
  • Links to a wide variety of NHL-related material

Game broadcasts and other key factors of the audience experience are available both on television and online. In addition, the NHL publishes a significant amount of content that is exclusive to online users. For example, it runs a blog with information on recent of-interest events. Contests, interaction with analysts, and other engaging practices are frequently employed.

Fan Experiences
At many NHL games, attendees have the opportunity to arrange for extra-special fan experiences. For example, the Chicago Blackhawks offer a number of fan experience packages, which allow fans to ride the Zamboni, stand on ice during the National Anthem, or watch the team warm up. Even as the NHL has expanded its technological offerings and built effective virtual environments, the importance of going above and beyond to engage audiences during the game remains unchanged.
Even for fans who don’t shell out for extra-special fan experiences, the NHL works to ensure that the hockey games themselves remain engaging for the audience. Although technology and online content play a major role, and the NHL promotes itself well with its audience engagement efforts, the most important factor in its success is the fact that it continues to offer a “product” that draws fans in.
What do you think of the way the NHL approaches audience experience and virtual environments? Share in the comments!

This post was originally published on the One Smooth Stone blog on May 1, 2014. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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