NHL signs sponsorship deal with Discover

November 8, 2010

(Reuters) The National Hockey League has signed a one-year sponsorship deal making Discover Financial Services the league’s official U.S. credit card, and its first financial sponsor in that market.

The deal, worth several million dollars including advertising commitments by Discover, puts the NHL’s overall sponsorship revenue about 30 percent above last year’s rate, said Keith Wachtel, NHL senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing.

“For us, financial services — banking, credit card — have been an open category in the United States for some time,” he said in a telephone interview. “We’ve been waiting for the right opportunity.”

The NHL’s credit card and banking sponsors in Canada are Visa Inc and Bank of Nova Scotia .

The NHL, with about $2.8 billion in annual revenue, started the 2010-2011 season last month and is coming off a year in which sponsorship and advertising revenue grew 66 percent.

Over the last three years, the NHL has signed new sponsorship and advertising deals worth more than $330 million with such companies as Anheuser-Busch InBev , Honda Motor Co, Geico and Cisco Systems.

Under the new deal, Discover will be the presenting sponsor for the all-star game, something the NHL has lacked for more than a decade, Wachtel said. The company also will be able to offer its card users discounts on NHL products as well as chances to win hockey experiences, including spending a day at home with the Stanley Cup championship trophy.

“We think hockey is a great way to reach our customers,” said Jennifer Murillo, Discover’s director of advertising.

Discover started out last year as an advertiser during NHL games televised by General Electric Co’s NBC affiliate and Comcast Corp’s Versus network.

The Discover deal lasts only one year to give the credit card company time to weigh its impact as well as to sync up that deal with the one in Canada, which also expires after this season, Wachtel said. A longer-term deal is the ultimate goal.

The NHL hopes to add sponsors in other categories, including U.S. banking, men’s grooming and airlines, he said.