The National Hockey League (NHL) had plenty to celebrate in the 2017-18 season, including a 100th birthday and the first expansion team in more than a decade. But the action hasn’t just been fun for players and fans. As the field of Stanley Cup contenders narrows, the league is also on pace to have one of its biggest years for sponsors.


Sponsorship plays a vital role in professional sports, and there’s no way to miss the dasher board signage that lines the inside wall of all ice rinks in professional hockey. And those walls are packed with messaging—messaging that drives big exposure for sponsors. In fact, a Nielsen Sports analysis of more than 1,200 of the 2017-18 regular season NHL games shows that 1,740 brands received a combined $1.2 billion in sponsorship exposure on television during game broadcasts in the U.S. and Canada.

So which categories got the biggest bang for the buck? The top sponsorship categories during regular season NHL games, based on QI (Quality Index) Media Value, were banking, automotive, telecommunications, beer and restaurants.

Out of 68 sponsorship asset locations where sponsorship logos appear on television, the static dasher board location received the most television time, followed by ice surface branding and virtual glass branding, which is invisible to fans in the arenas but is seen by TV viewers through the magic of television tech—much like the yard-to-gain line TV viewers see during pro football games.

So what drove sponsorship exposure value growth? Major factors include the addition of the Las Vegas Golden Knights team this season and 41 more games to the regular NHL season schedule.


So how did teams and players perform in the regular season? To no surprise, Stanley Cup Playoff contenders topped most on-ice success metrics.

Gracenote Sports, a Nielsen company, collects, analyzes and publishes scores and statistics for the world’s top professional leagues and teams. This data serves as the backbone for top print and online media, fantasy and gaming sites, as well as cable and satellite TV providers.

An analysis of the 2017-18 regular NHL season from Gracenote Sports shows:

  • In their NHL debut year, the Las Vegas Golden Knights ranked among the top five in the league for goals scored (268), goal differential (+43), and forward William Karlsson ranked third in the league for goals at 43.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning ranked first in goals scored with 290.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins had more shots on goal than any other team with 2,823.
  • Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals was the top scorer with 49 goals.
  • Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers and Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets tied for the most assists with 68.


As for winning over fans, Pittsburgh, home of the 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup Champion Penguins, has the highest percent of hockey fans in its local market in the U.S., with 61%, according to Nielsen Scarborough research. The metro areas with the next-highest concentrations of people who have watched, attended or listened to an NHL game are Buffalo, St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit.

With one of the longer playoff seasons in professional sports, the Stanley Cup will be awarded to the top team in the league in June.