The NHL gets superpowers

As the new season starts, the organization is expanding its target demographic with the launch of a youth-targeted superhero promotion, and a dedicated Foursquare presence.

On the first day of the 2010-11 hockey season, the NHL released a flurry of announcements, unveiling 30 team-themed superheroes and promoting its new Foursquare presence.

The superheroes, part of what is called the Guardian Project, is the result of a partnership with legendary comic book producer Stan Lee, co-creator of such heroes as Spider-Man and the X-Men. Together, the Stan Lee Group and the NHL have created Guardian Media Entertainment to create the new characters.

The project is a chance for the NHL to engage new fans early and keep them entertained, says Brian Jennings, EVP, marketing, NHL.

‘What’s really important for the league was, how do you start a dialogue to cultivate the next generation of hockey fans?’ says Jennings. ‘This is really an opportunity to target boys nine to 14 and create an imaginative property that we could build some really robust storylines around.’

A project teaser will be shown during Comic-Con in New York today, and the full group of 30 ‘guardians,’ all of whom will have powers corresponding to their teams and cities, will be unveiled Jan. 30, 2011, as part of this season’s NHL All-Star Game.

Though media details haven’t been finalized, the rollout will include an interactive website, mobile apps, comic books, gaming, in-arena executions, broadcast, merchandise, and promotional and sponsorship activities, says Jennings.

The Foursquare announcement came out in time for yesterday’s Face-Off event at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square. If people checked in while taking part in activities at the hockey festival, they were given chances to win prizes at the event.

After the opening day festivities, the league will continue to have a full-time presence on the geo-location, social media site.

The NHL worked with Toronto’s Rocket XL to develop the Foursquare campaign.

Mike Dilorenzo, director, social media marketing and strategy, NHL, says that Foursquare, like Facebook and Twitter, is just another way to make it more fun to be a hockey fan.

‘We want to shorten the distance between the league and the fans by finding them where they traffic online, not necessarily requiring them to come to as the only gateway to connecting with the league,’ he says. ‘We’re fishing where the fish are.’

Throughout the season, fans can check in at select NHL games and events and get access to tips and facts featuring memorable moments in NHL history, as well as other unique content, discounts, incentives and rewards.