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Revolutionizing the NHL’s Fan Experience

March 11, 2016 by Ann-Sofie Ruf 35

In 2014, SAP and the National Hockey League reimagined the fan experience around statistics for hockey lovers worldwide.

This is the story of how design supported the launching of the NHL’s new stats experiences in – the first phase in a multiphase, multiyear-partnership between SAP and the NHL.

Results at a Glance:

  • 400,000+ site views within the first 3 days
  • 749 million total online impressions
  • 45% increase in engagement on stats site

Opportunity: Retelling the Story to Hockey Fans

Since first taking to the ice in 1917 the National Hockey League (NHL®) has seen amazing growth. From the first puck dropped, the method of capturing, formatting, and distributing NHL statistics has evolved as much as the game itself.

As the official cloud software provider of the NHL, SAP collaborated with the League on the transformation of the NHL’s statistics platform on NHL.com to provide real-time insight for fans to be able to dive into the world of hockey like never before. But what are hockey fans’ desires? And what are the NHL’s objectives?

“In order to have a go at any project you first have to understand the people you design it for,” says Anthony, lead designer for the NHL project. Before beginning any design, the team began by deep diving into the world of hockey and the different ecosystems of the NHL. From players to teams, the NHL has an incredible amount of data within the hockey stats landscape.

The mission was to unlock the full potential of this vast wealth of information to bring the game to life in new and meaningful ways for fans. The aim was therefore to personally engage with people and talk to them to develop empathy for their needs and see the world of hockey from their perspective.  “This was important to understand their broader motivations and wishes and not only their view alone on hockey statistics,” he recalls.

“The NHL loved the level of immersion that we took to really gain empathy with the fans that we were designing for,” adds Matthew one of the designers on the project team. Knowing the fan’s aspirations is a first step to a captivating design.

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Approach: Diving Deep to Understand the Ecosystem

“The design process was anything but linear. It included continuous refining of feedback and ideas,” Anthony recalls. Whether from fans, the NHL, or the team members from the SAP Design & Co-Innovation Center in Palo Alto – revisions and iterations became the fuel behind design decisions.

While designing, of course, the team never lost sight of their main target: Keeping everything grounded in the fans aspirations and building the whole experience around their needs. The team started with low-fidelity sketches to save time and effort.

Ultimately, after extensive feedback sessions with fans and stakeholders the design iterated its way to a higher and higher fidelity finally converging to pixel perfect wireframes. The design team also created extensive, stand-alone design documentation to support the NHL development effort. This ensured that the vision and integrity of the designs would survive following the engagement.

Experience: Revolutionizing the Fan Experience

“The project was a team effort across various SAP departments including Global Sponsorships, the Design & Co-Innovation Center, the SAP Implementation team, and many more,” says Anthony. The teamwork helped the design team identify potential obstacles, which could then be addressed well before they became actual problems. The entire design process was one of constant collaboration and co-creation.

Such a close working relationship allowed the team to quickly incorporate feedback and work through ideas, making sure the designs met all stakeholders’ objectives. This went beyond updating the visual look and feel but providing fans with a whole new set of tools to go deeper and deeper into the game.

A brand new statistics homepage for fans was introduced to use as a launch pad into the NHL stats ecosystem. NHL.com/stats went live in February 2015, with a whole new fan experience on an engaging level never seen before. Since the launch of the website the site visits have increased in 25% with over 400,000 NHL.com/stats unique views within the first three days of going live.

During the first week of launch there were a total of 107 unique pieces of coverage published, resulting in more than 749 million media impressions and 18 million twitter impressions, such as “Hockey nerds are going off today on my timeline as a result of the NHL’s new stats initiative and I love it.” Due to this overwhelming excitement, the design project has also been submitted to the UX Award and the IXDA Awards.

Customer Testimonial:

The process for this redesign has really been a true collaboration between the NHL and SAP. We really wanted to give the user a clean experience which is easy to navigate and also give a level of interactivity.

–Chris Foster, Director, Digital Business Development, NHL

Customer Information National Hockey League

Customer facts:

  • Premier professional ice hockey league in the world
  • Consisting of 30 member clubs in the USA and Canada
  • Founded 1917 in Montreal, headquartered in New York

SAP User Experience Design Services offered:

  • Design research and strategy for next generation fan experiences for NHL
  • Concept and visual design of wireframes and mockups
  • Co-innovation and design expertise

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