The New Jersey Devils hockey team and Prudential Financial announced on Wednesday that a Black-owned business logo will be featured on player helmets for 13 home games this season. The helmet patch asset, which is often used by companies for advertising, is being donated by Prudential Financial.
As part of a sponsorship rights extension, Prudential will select a business to receive the ad exposure on Devils’ player helmets starting Dec. 8 and continue for 13 selected home games. The helmet patch will provide a Black-owned business in-arena and TV ad exposure during Devils games. Prudential pledged to provide marketing consultation and financial advice for the business that it selects.
The patch donation combines incentives with Devils’ “Buy Black Program,” which was created to help minority-owned businesses in and around Newark, New Jersey, where the team is based. The number of Black-owned business owners declined 41% early in the pandemic, according to June data from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
But last month, Bloomberg reported that new research from Robert Fairlie, an economics professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, shows operations among Black-owned companies increased by 38% compared to February 2020.
“We have an obligation to use this platform to drive change,” Devils President Jake Reynolds told CNBC on Wednesday. “As we know, Black businesses have been challenged on numerous levels. So the opportunity for us to take our brand and the platform we have to be able to drive awareness – this is just the beginning for something we’re going to continue to build on.”
Last season, the NHL created the helmet patch asset to provide corporate partners extra inventory to compensate for pandemic losses. Brands also missed impressions due to the shortened 2020-21 season.
Prudential’s extension with the Devils is part of a make-good offering, which means it won’t pay extra. Prudential already pays the Devils roughly $5 million per season for naming rights to its Newark arena. That deal is worth approximately $105 million and expires in 2027.
The NHL started its 2021-22 season on Tuesday with a pair of national games on ESPN that featured the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Seattle Kraken against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
The NHL received switched media partners last April when it returned to ESPN and added Turner Sports in a deal valued at over $1 billion. However, it’s not clear if the Black business selected will receive national games in the donation offer.
But those deals will help the NHL and its teams recover from losses over the last two seasons. The Devils are one of the many NHL teams that have decreased in value because of the pandemic, according to Forbes. The franchise is worth $530 million after declining 4% in 2020. Revenue also slipped to $152 million from $180 million.
The league is expecting to recover during its new campaign. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Sportsnet radio the league projects revenue “well into $5 billion” this season. “The vital signs are strong,” he said. “And all of our franchises are in good shape.”
Added Reynolds: “We’re very fortunate that we’ve been able to see a V-shape recovery bounce-back in our business.”
The Devils open their season at home against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.