Northstar Studies NHL Fan Engagement

Study Reveals Four Brands that Fans Most Strongly Associate with the NHL

Women Uncovered as Untapped Target for Hockey Advertisers

TORONTO, June 11, 2012 /CNW/ - Northstar Research Partners, a leading market research consultancy, today released the results of an in-depth study that unlocks insights into how Canadian viewers across multiple demographics watch hockey and engage with advertisers during games. The study also explored the social and cultural importance of the game as well as the Stanley Cup Playoffs specifically.

Findings include key takeaways regarding the effectiveness of advertising to various groups based on age and gender, as well as the levels of engagement and viewing habits across different segments of the Canadian population – including a surprising number of highly-engaged female hockey fans.

Additional key findings from the survey include:

  • The four brands fans identified as having the strongest connection to hockey are (in order): Tim Hortons, Molson, Canadian Tire and Scotiabank;
  • 55 percent of women and 63 percent of men in Canada list the Stanley Cup Playoffs as their favorite televised event;
  • The study found an 11 percent increase in NHL hockey engagement based on this past season, despite no Canadian team advancing beyond the second round of the Playoffs;
  • CBC is the most viewed network for female fans (37 percent), while men report a preference for TSN (53 percent).

"It is universally understood that hockey is a key component of Canada's cultural fabric," said Angela Muzzo, Executive Vice President at Northstar Research Partners. "However when we examined Canadian hockey fans by age and gender, we were surprised to see such a wide range of emotions driving engagement and motivation for the sport. The key for advertisers is to utilize strategies that will break through to these different groups in a way that will be meaningful and create a lasting impression."

"NHL fans are among the most passionate and committed of any sport – especially in Canada. We're always looking to better understand the motivations and key drivers of that passion in order to deliver an exciting, rewarding experience for fans of all ages and genders. A deeper understanding of fans also helps our corporate partners communicate in an effective and meaningful way when they enter into a partnership with the NHL," said Brian Jennings, the NHL's Executive Vice President of Marketing.

Women are an Untapped Advertising Demographic for the NHL

82 percent of women and 87 percent of men indicate that they are likely to follow the sport on a regular basis, making hockey the most equally watched sport in Canada amongst men and women. While women claim to be more distracted while watching, they actually can recall advertisers during the game just as well as men, despite the fact that few female-focused brands are advertising during the Playoffs.

Key findings about women include:

  • Women use hockey to connect with friends and participate in an activity that brings their families together: 75 percent of games are watched with family and one third (32 percent) say that talking about hockey is one of their favorite topics with friends;
  • Women view the NHL as an escape (67 percent of avid fans, 41 percent of general population fans), an emotionally packed experience (79 percent of avid fans, 62 percent of general population fans) and are just as likely as men to lose their inhibitions while getting caught up in the competition;
  • Avid female hockey fans are less likely than men to think of the sport as "too aggressive";
  • Women are drawn to hockey not only because they grew up watching the game with their families (72 percent of avid fans, 55 percent of general population fans), but their own children now play organized hockey, giving them another reason to continue being engaged in the sport (40 percent of avid female fans have their kids in organized hockey v. 26 percent of the overall female population).

Advertisers Must Use Distinct Strategies to Target Males across Different Age Groups

While men ages 18-29 represent a highly coveted audience for brands, they are the hardest group for advertisers to engage. Their recall of sponsors and brands is lower than other populations sampled because their viewing experience includes the distractions of their friends. Even though traditional forms of advertising may not be as effective with young men, digital channels offer an ideal opportunity to engage this crucial portion of the fan-base when they are not as engrossed in the game itself. Young men are the most likely to visit (56 percent of young males v. 31 percent of older males) and the NHL Facebook page (39 percent v. 19 percent). In addition, they are also highly active in social media conversations surrounding hockey and the NHL, comprising almost two-thirds of related traffic.

Other findings include:

  • Men aged 40-55 years comprise the largest slice of the total NHL audience (41 percent);
  • This demographic's devotion to the game leads them to watch the majority of games alone so that their full attention can be on the game itself. This is in contrast to younger men who like to watch hockey as a social experience;
  • Men over forty are able to recall advertising at a higher rate than their younger counterparts, and had the highest recall for major NHL sponsors;
  • This demographic is best targeted with in-game advertising because only 10 percent engage in social media.

Over the course of several weeks, Northstar Research Partners conducted focus groups of both male and female hockey fans ranging from 18-49 years old, including in-depth immersions with seasoned Northstar ethnographers observing fans as they watched the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Northstar also conducted an online survey with a representative sample of 600 Canadian hockey viewers.

About Northstar Research Partners

Northstar, a member of the MDC Partners Network, is a leading global full-service market research and consulting firm, offering qualitative and quantitative studies plus consumer anthropology, with services across both consumer and business-to-business channels.

Northstar has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Grand Ogilvy and Gold Prize at the 2011 Ogilvy Awards for the Domino's Pizza: Pizza Turnaround campaign. In 2007, Northstar was recognized globally by the Advertising Research Foundation's Ogilvy Awards for its work on the "Talk to Chuck" campaign for Charles Schwab.

SOURCE Northstar Research Partners

For further information:

James Coronios, +1-646-460-8936,

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Northstar Research Partners

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