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Corporate Sponsorships Reimagined: National Hockey League

Feature Article | May 3, 2017 by Chris Foster, director of Digital Business Development, NHL

There we were, staring down a hundred years of hockey data. More than 55,000 games played, featuring 7,500 of the greatest players of all time, who tallied more than 76,000 assists and 300,000 goals.

Beyond our existing database of stats, which went back only 30 years, were tens of thousands of handwritten scoresheets yet to be digitized — and we hadn’t even begun to think about how to use it all.


Corporate Sponsorships Reimagined is a series documenting the experiences of SAP sponsorship partners, in their own words.


We didn’t need another sponsor. We needed a dynamic technology partner, one capable of meeting all our needs, from the ice, to the stands, to the front office.

That’s when we began our relationship with SAP, which has evolved into something more impactful than we initially envisioned. Together, we’ve tackled not only a hundred years of NHL® statistics, but the future of how NHL data is collected, analyzed, and presented to fans around the globe. We have tested in-game player and puck tracking technology, which has the potential to revolutionize the way fans consume the game, the way broadcasters deliver insights to our audiences, and the way players, coaches, and franchises measure and analyze performance.

We’ve even attended SAP events like SAPPHIRE NOW to showcase our successes—and the iconic Stanley Cup® took center stage with us! The SAP team has responded in kind, attending NHL events and even hosting design thinking workshops for our team.

The authentic partnership between SAP and the NHL goes beyond logo placement and hospitality status quo.

When the NHL needed a dynamic technology partner, the league chose SAP

Perhaps the greatest outcome of our work with SAP is the universe of compelling, stats-based stories we’ve unlocked for our fans. Centralizing all of our statistics, past, present, and future, on the SAP HANA database allows us to run real-time analysis and our fans to personalize their experience. With 2.2 quadrillion possible statistical combinations to explore, we’ve discovered some fascinating things so far. For instance, we’ve seen how statistical trends correlate to rule changes, like those allowing goalies to drop to the ice. We’ve also seen how the flow of history affects the game. In the late 30s and 40s, for example, overtime gave way to the tie game, due in large part to energy saving initiatives during the war effort.

I’m still amazed at what we’ve learned about our history, simply by analyzing stats. It’s a miracle in itself that all of our stat sheets have survived for 100 years, through fires and natural disasters, relocations and stadium closures.

From our very first interactions, the NHL’s partnership with SAP has been about collaboration. Whether it’s organizing focus groups with fans or planning fan engagements an international event like the World Cup of Hockey, we work together to assess, align, and prioritize before we choose a path forward.

SAP is truly reimagining sponsorships, and we’re thrilled to be on board.


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Chris Foster is director of Digital Business Development for the National Hockey League

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