Hockey takes Its Weekend: Five years ago it started with a series of disjointed events with little media attention in hotbeds across the country. However now, with the buy-in of a major corporate sponsor (McDonald’s), the media power of NBC and the marketing if the NHL, “Hockey Weekend In America” is continuing to gather steam. From flash mobs in Texas wearing jerseys to celebrations across Minnesota, tailgating in Buffalo, and dozens of free clinics and other activation activities, the sport of hockey is on full display for the casual fan this weekend, culminating with all the on-air promotion and visibility NBC will give the NHL on Sunday afternoon, a very quiet weekend tucked between the end of football, the NHL All-Star Game and next weekend’s double dip of Daytona and the NBA All-Star game. The movement of Daytona a week later should give the sport of hockey even more visibility, and the ability for USA Hockey to muster support from the grassroots in conjunction with the NHL gives the weekend its most cohesive feel ever. Now there are still things that can be done to grow more…Friday’s “Hockey Jersey” Day across the country didn’t seem to gather much steam, and there isn’t a large scale celebrity tie positioned around the weekend to give the events even more casual support. There is also a lack of a cohesive physical presence across all things hockey…maybe a large scale community initiative ties everyone together for the good of the game in the future…but the weekend is expanding each year. It is a nice tentpole to work around for the sport, regardless of the level or organization involved, and maybe will bring in more casual fans to watch and experience if not play. The building should continue and mix well with the Sochi Olympics in 2014, when hopefully all remain n the same page and hockey, as it did in Vancouver, really takes center stage during its largest global platform again. A nice graduated program that continues to make sense for all involved.
Manchester City Goes For A Gamble: Late this week Premier League powerhouse Manchester City announced that they had selected the bookmaking firm Paddy Power as their official bookmaking partner. As part of the wide-ranging marketing deal, Paddy Power will offer its range of innovative betting products to Blues fans via the Manchester City website and a specially created City microsite. The partnership will create a huge platform for MC and its fans and will probably be an ancillary windfall for the club in a vibrant revenue stream. The announcement continues to turn heads in the United States, where online gambling is illegal and any such partnerships are a pipe dream, at least for now. However with the State of New Jersey pushing hard to overturn a federal law and make sportsbook legal in casinos, and teams looking for new ways to keep fans engaged and bring in revenue, the thought of the Yankees or the Lakers signing a preferred bookmaker deal with a BetFair or with a Vegas Sports book may not be that far off. Technology has made online gambling easier and more regulated in other parts of the world, and teams need new revenue streams. Maybe it will start with virtual goods and services on handheld devices, but controlled wagering seems to be more and more a topic of conversation, and with each new deal signed abroad, the topic will get hotter as the sport world shrinks and the level of interest and competition for casual dollars rises.