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This season in NHL playoff ads: Put a Cup on it

Limited edition cases of beer notwithstanding, there is one element in advertising around the Stanley Cup playoffs that the National Hockey League believes has been sorely missing: The Stanley Cup.

This year, Oreo has carved the cup into the chocolatey surface of its cookies, and Tim Hortons Inc. is releasing a Stanley Cup doughnut.

Encouraging sponsors to make use of one of its dearest icons is part of the NHL's more active courting of advertisers this year.

The league got started earlier than usual pitching sponsors on dedicating part of their marketing budgets to take advantage of the buzz around playoff season.

"We've been under-utilizing the Stanley Cup in materials," said Brian Jennings, the NHL's chief marketing officer.

NHL sponsors were always allowed to use the Cup for promotions or ads, he said, but did not always think to; this year the league actively suggested it as part of its better-organized pitch to advertisers.

It has been a growth year for the NHL, with marketers in more categories than usual doing playoff campaigns. In addition to Tim Hortons and Oreo, Honda, L'Oreal, spirits maker Diageo. Tim Hortons and Oreo are all brands doing playoff promotions for the first time, according to the league.

Here's a look at where the Cup will be popping up:

Tim Hortons

A Stanley Cup Playoffs doughnut will be sold at all of Tim Hortons’ roughly 3,400 locations across the country. It will have the NHL’s playoffs logo stamped on white icing, with sprinkles to match the black-and-white logo.

The in-store promotion is a way for the quick-service coffee chain to reinforce its NHL sponsorship, Mr. Jennings said, and is the first playoff activation of its kind for Tim Hortons.


The Mondelez Canada-owned cookie brand has increased its focus in recent years on sparking conversation online, via social media such as Twitter and Facebook. So when an NHL player posts a message on Twitter referencing a campaign, it’s a sign of success.

“Nowadays when u make the playoffs @NHL sends you official cookies!” Montreal Canadiens right winger George Parros tweeted last weekend.

“My daughter is available for commercials too!”

The limited-edition cookies have an image of the Cup on each biscuit, as well as on the packaging, which uses the NHL slogan “Because it’s the Cup.”


In 2010, the NHL launched one of its most successful advertising campaigns ever for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, using the taglineHistory will be made.”

The ads were a resounding hit, especially with hard-core hockey fans.

But the NHL has undertaken a project to broaden its fan base, and that means using messages with wider appeal.

“As we started to do focus groups and to look at the path to fandom, we recognized that this is a time of the year when you want to reach our and welcome casual fans … it’s the best time to hook them,” Mr. Jennings said. “Even the word ‘history’ is not necessarily inviting if you don’t understand it.

“That led us to go with ‘Because it’s the Cup.’ … It’s what the casual fan recognized.”

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