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Lighting The Lamps! What Keyed Disney Advertising Sales’ NHL Success?

Disney SVP Sports Brand Solutions, Sean Hanrahan: "We think it's evident from the early response and high demand that advertisers are as excited as we are to see the NHL return to ESPN and The Walt Disney Company where it belongs."

Disney SVP, Sports Brand Solutions, Sean Hanrahan: ” . . . Our advertisers will have the ability to connect with a different audience who watch games on streaming platforms and linear. ”
(Illustration: Rich Arden/ESPN; Hanrahan photo: Steve Fenn/ESPN Images)

Following its unprecedented Upfront, Disney Advertising Sales locked in key advertising sponsorship deals across ABC, ESPN, ESPN+, Hulu, and its owned social channels for the storied return of the NHL to its platform.

Spanning automotive, consumer packaged goods, financial services, restaurants, technology, and telecommunications categories, this season’s sponsors flocked to Disney’s robust coverage, embracing the best-in-class cross-portfolio opportunity. Front Row caught up with Sean Hanrahan, SVP Sports Brand Solutions, who shared his thoughts on the return of the NHL to the Walt Disney Company and the effect it has had on advertising.

How have advertisers reacted to NHL’s return to ESPN?
We think it’s evident from the early response and high demand that advertisers are as excited as we are to see the NHL return to ESPN and The Walt Disney Company where it belongs. This season’s sponsors flocked to Disney’s robust coverage and have enthusiastically embraced our best-in-class cross-portfolio opportunity. Our diversified and unique offerings provide greater reach for brands which is critical to building their business.

The NHL rights deal has been described as a “landmark agreement” and a “blueprint for future rights agreements.” Can you explain what this means, especially for advertisers?
The return of the NHL with this rights deal has marked a new era in sports. For instance, the exclusive distribution of 75 games on ESPN+ and Hulu underscores both the NHL’s and Disney’s commitment to connect with hockey fans everywhere they are. As a result, our advertisers will have the ability to connect with a different audience who watch games on streaming platforms and linear.

Where do you anticipate seeing the most growth and advertising interest in future seasons?
This agreement clearly underscores The Walt Disney Company’s leadership in all facets of the sports media landscape. This groundbreaking deal sets a new standard on delivering the analysis, highlights, and live game content to the most passionate and tech-savvy fans in sports. I only see continued growth and broader reach from here. Advertising on traditional linear programming will always be a staple for us, but I do anticipate growth in the addressable space over the next few years.

Given the significance of ESPN now having rights across all four major North American sports (MLB/NFL/NBA/NHL) plus the plethora of college rights, can you tell us what that means for Disney advertisers?
The depth and variety of our rights agreements mean we’re delivering must-watch content every day of the year, across every screen and platform, reaching sports fans of all types, everywhere they are. When they partner with us, our advertisers connect their brands to consumers in a way that no other media company can provide. There is truly something for every fan, and we will only continue to push the boundaries with new and innovative ways for brands to connect with fans.

NOTE: The Walt Disney Company’s presentation of the National Hockey League (NHL) continues this week with four exclusive national games on ESPN+ and Hulu – two games Tuesday night and two more Friday night. In addition, 38 out-of-market games, each with a choice of home and away telecasts, will stream live on ESPN+ this week. Visit ESPN Press Room for more details.

Hanrahan: “Advertising on traditional linear programming will always be a staple for us, but I do anticipate growth in the addressable space over the next few years.”
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