When it comes to being a global sports phenomenon, it is arguable that only two brands have managed to achieve true dominance: The English Premier League and the NFL. Both may have suffered a small decline in global television figures, but they can still clearly attract an audience that can be well over 1 billion in size, and are therefore clearly huge money-making brands to be involved with.
Arguably this is best seen through the value of the teams associated with these leagues. The top-ranked valuable team, according to Forbes, is the Dallas Cowboys from the NFL, while the second most valuable team is the EPL’s Manchester United.
What, though, is a stark warning for the NHL is that none of their teams make the list of top 50 most valuable teams.
Not following the money
What can explain this discrepancy? Well, on face value, the EPL and the NFL have both taken huge steps to make sure they are taking advantage of pretty much every commercial opportunity available to them. This means that the EPL, for instance, has actively pursued every opportunity for finding commercial value, including, for instance, looking at gambling. Many of the major teams are sponsored by betting companies; there are spin-off gambling opportunities on free spins no deposit casino sites that may not be officially licensed but which make use of the sort of imagery and branding associated with the EPL, and the TV ad time for gambling companies during big matches is significant.
Happy 31st birthday to the best player of this generation, Sidney Crosby! pic.twitter.com/v5MLTy14DO
— (@PenguinsWorId) August 7, 2018
This kind of commercial exposure could also do a lot for NHL stars like Sidney Crosby, who currently are lacking any kind of recognition on a global scale. The opportunity does seem to be there now that gambling legislation has been permitted in the US, and the NHL could jump on this as a new commercial opportunity. It does seem certain that the NHL has to look beyond new revenue streams if it wants to be propelled back into the news as it was when movies like Mighty Ducks helped propel it into pop culture. This isn’t going to be easy but if the sport is to continue to survive and grow in popularity, a wider audience is key.
Bringing the fans onside
At present, the NHL could be forgiven for not looking further than its natural fan base and wondering what is going wrong in cities like Ottawa where the disconnect between the owner and fans is doing nothing good for the sport. This is made worse by the fact that global fans rarely if ever even get to see pre-season games played in other locations, and unlike the NFL or even the EPL teams, there is no great move to help push the global brand of teams during the off-season as a precursor to looking at commercial opportunities during the regular or postseason.
In fact, at the moment, the NHL is almost impossible to watch for fans in the UK. Even in countries like Sweden where there is a big potential fan base the sport struggles to compete against other sports. Unless serious steps are taken to really evaluate the direction the NHL is taking and unless more risks are taken, like in the case of the creation of the Golden Knights franchise, the NHL is likely to continue to tread water at best for the foreseeable future.