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JONES: Edmonton Oilers pursuing alternate revenue routes with Rogers Place empty

There is an increased amount of advertising around the Edmonton Oilers brand, as can be seen on the helmet of team captain Connor McDavid in training camp ahead of the 2021 NHL season, which opens Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021.
There is an increased amount of advertising around the Edmonton Oilers brand, as can be seen on the helmet of team captain Connor McDavid in training camp ahead of the 2021 NHL season, which opens Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021.

It’s Stew MacDonald’s own, personal twisted 50-50.

The Edmonton Oilers vice-president of revenue has a goal of somehow managing to create 50 per cent of the income out of a 56-game schedule with no fans in the stands as the organization would create in a normal 82-game season with capacity crowds.

Good luck with that?

No. He thinks he’s going to be able to do it.

“When you take fans and tickets out of the mix and the arena itself out of the mix and a shortened season on top of that, that’s a lot of lost inventory. Our target is to get to over the 50 per-cent mark in revenue,” said MacDonald.

When Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and teammates step onto the ice to open their Canadian Division — check that, Scotia North Division — season with back-to-back games against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday and Thursday in Rogers Place, there won’t be many limits on what they’ll be allowed to try to make a buck.

They won’t go so far as to put advertising logos on every square inch of their uniforms or all over the ice, like some of the teams in Europe, but there will be a new look just about everywhere you look.

“With no fans in the stands, there’s a huge revenue hole so the NHL has been really progressive in providing a bunch of opportunities that are all basically for this year,” said MacDonald. “Once the agreement with the NHLPA (NHL Players Association) to move the season ahead was completed, the NHL gave us five options.

“The league gave us the opportunity to have helmet decals, advertising on section covers on the seats sections, a decal wrap at the bottom of the glass on the boards around the rink that will face the ice surface, a slight extension of our current players box signage on the home and visitors benches and an opportunity to expand on our on-ice advertising that will be delivered virtually, much like we do with our advertising on the glass behind the goal now.

“They’re terrific opportunities to bring hockey back and lower the losses that are going to be incurred in each market.”

The Oilers will wear a Rogers logo on their helmets. Indeed, they are already wearing them at training camp.

McDonald is proceeding as if all the opportunities will be for one year only.

“For us, it’s been really well received by our partners,” he said.

“We closed our helmet decals deal immediately with Rogers,” he said of the firm that already has Rogers Place and just extended Sportsnet broadcast rights with both the Oilers and Calgary Flames. “There were a number of options the league had given us with that. We could have a helmet logo decal partner for home games, a different partner for away games and a different partner for practice.

“We talked to Rogers and they said no, that they really liked this product and they wanted to make sure they owned it. It was a very quick discussion and negotiation with them to secure it for the entire season, home, away and practice.”

The Oilers jumped all over the seat cover opportunity.

“We were fortunate to have been the hub city for all those Stanley Cup playoff games last summer and had the section seat covers that we also used for the world junior,” he said. “We really liked the look the NHL had. We’ll have 10 sections that have our partners on it, along with a section with an OEG (Oilers Entertainment Group) logo and a section with an Ice District logo.

“What we were hearing from our partners was that many of their opportunities had become limited. If they had a activation in the arena or a display on the concourse, a lot of those were really compromised or couldn’t be delivered if there were no fans in the building. So, our partners really welcomed as new inventory they could take advantage of in lieu of elements that can’t be delivered.

“All our time right now is being spent on our current partners. We’ve had some inquiries from potential new partners, but right now with such a short runway to start the season off Wednesday, all our conversations are with our current sponsors to this point.”

The Oilers are not going to opt in to place virtual ads just in the high slot area at this point. But they’re opting in on the glass wrap opportunity.

“The glass wraps are a clear decal that will go on the glass right above the boards. It’s about a foot high.”

Obviously a few of the activations couldn’t remain after the pandemic is over and fans return the to stands, such as the seat section covers and glass wrap ads. But if there’s no fan outrage over the helmet decals, and I don’t expect there will be, it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ll be back when the fans come back.

And that’s the other thing about using the sponsor logo seat cover tarps instead of building a spectacular, expensive set like the NHL did here for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

There’s the hope that sometime prior to the playoffs, they’ll be able to remove the tarps and put fans back in the stands.

E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @byterryjones

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021

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