Happy NHL hockey season! The start of any sports season is a time for inspiration as teams roll out their new content and creative for the year. In the latest edition of our Fast Five series (showcasing interesting social activation examples across the sports landscape), we look at the creative ideas NHL teams are already implementing to engage fans and sponsor partners.
We’re exploring sports sponsor Instagram posts from NHL teams and insights they offer in optimizing short-form digital media. These examples include the top sponsor-tagged (official ‘paid partnerships’) over the first several days of the 2023-24 NHL season, using CrowdTangle data* and branded content tags.
And we offer some key lessons for sports digital teams everywhere to boost sports sponsor Instagram activations, along with some bonus examples.
Vancouver Canucks: Victory Post (Partnership With McDonald’s Canada)
While it’s not overly shocking that a post celebrating a win would perform well, it’s instructive to learn from the different ways teams execute these posts. The Canucks went with a carousel that combines a video, game photos, and a clean stat graphic, too.
In the first week or so of the NHL season, carousel posts by NHL teams (branded or not) had a 20% higher engagement rate compared to single photo or video posts.
Lesson: Particularly with high-performing carousel posts, Instagram may show the same posts multiple times in the feed, just anchored on a different frame in the carousel. This means more chances to get social engagements, so carousels with varying content formats can go a bit further.
Buffalo Sabres: Player Arrivals on Blue Carpet (Partnership With Napoli’s)
Most NHL teams will do a special red carpet (or other color carpet) entrance for their home opener, and the Sabres did theirs in style last week. They featured their sharply-attired athletes in carousel posts sponsored by clothing and shoe retailer Napoli’s. These included a sticky logo prominent on each photo in the carousel.
We’ve seen NHL Players start to take to the arrival fashion runway with the same fervor as their NBA counterparts (and not just on opening nights).
Another subtle reminder in this post is the importance of having a quick and easy way to add a sponsor logo on photos. We’re not sure how the Sabres did it here, but we know many of our customers use Greenfly’s integration with Slate to enhance mobile content for social posts quickly.
Lesson: Even if you’re not rolling out the carpet for their arena entrance every night, it pays to be thoughtful and strategic about the aesthetic of athletes’ entrances. You can transform a plain white wall into more sponsor value when branded — because that brand gets amplified through athlete sharing.
San Jose Sharks: Post-Game Post With a Tequila Twist (Partnership With Milagro Tequila)
The Sharks posted after an overtime loss on the team’s special “Los Tiburones Night” celebrating Hispanic heritage and culture in the Bay Area. This was part of a game night partnership with Milagro Tequila.
The Sharks had unique designs for the night and included Spanish in their copy across social platforms. The team still got a solid interaction rate on this post despite the loss to the Avalanche because the team played well and because this post was different.
Lesson: The idea of maximizing specialty nights is one all teams can focus on, particularly when involving a sponsor.
We see teams do big things for tentpole events, such as providing custom content to select athletes, distributing content to select corporate and media partners, and even collecting user-generated content from interested fans. Muy bien, Tiburones. ¡Chingón!
Winnipeg Jets: Post-Game Locker Room Jacket (Partnership With Bell MTS)
After the Jets win, fans got a carousel post featuring the (relatively new) team tradition of handing out jackets. The first jacket goes to the Unsung Hero of the Game, and the second to the Player of the Game.
Access like this is always great for fans and even better when a partner can be tied in, as Bell MTS is with this mini carousel. Many NHL teams now have a post-game trinket handed out to deserving players after a win, so there are plenty of opportunities to tie in a sponsor to feature this content.
Lesson: Post-game media is often content athletes like to share, too. And we’re starting to see more content like this (branded or not) end up in athletes’ feeds — either through direct distribution to them or through Instagram Collab posts.
Calgary Flames: First Career Goal Graphic (Partnership With Legacy Heating)
The Calgary Flames celebrated Matt Coronato’s first career goal with a creative graphic that also featured the sponsor logo on the branded post.
Milestones are a special occasion that most teams get to mark each season, whether first career goals or 500th career games and everything in between.
Lesson: Seeking opportunities to activate partners around these memorable moments is a primary takeaway. Keep in mind the athlete experiencing this moment, like Coronato in this case, will be anxious to get photos and videos of their achievement. So, that’s an opportunity to be mindful of when planning and executing around such milestones.
Fast Five Overtime: Three More Examples
Dallas Stars: Game Night Graphic (Partnership With Toyota)
Buffalo Sabres: Tim Horton’s Team Donut (Partnership With Tim Horton’s)
Montreal Canadiens: ‘Ace of the Game’ Graphic (Partnership With Casino Montreal)
Drive Your Sports Sponsor Social Post Activations
At Greenfly, we’re continually inspired by creative league and team social sports activations and partnerships. That’s true whether they’re done with sponsors, broadcast partners, athletes or fans. And we love to share our best practices in maximizing fan engagement and revenue opportunities.
Our digital media orchestration platform is unparalleled in driving short-form content collection, distribution and sponsor tracking. It’s now even more powerful thanks to our industry-leading artificial intelligence tagging and analysis through Greenfly +AI Vision.
If you want to learn more about Greenfly, what we do, and how we can help facilitate sports sponsor posts on Instagram and other social platforms with short-form digital content — contact us today!
*Data from CrowdTangle, a public insights tool owned and operated by Facebook.