The sport of hockey has not seen a player as marketable as Wayne Gretzky in its history. The National Hockey League has been desperate for the right player(s) to come along and not just make the game more exciting, but also make it more marketable. Since 2005, the game has changed in such a way as to allow very young, dynamic players to excel in the NHL. Players like Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane have seen incredible success not only on the ice, but also in product endorsements. Crosby is the face of Reebok hockey and Gatorade, while Kane endorses Bauer and is on the cover of the best sports video game in the world, EA Sports’ NHL 10. But the most vibrant of them all may have just taken the cake. Recently, Alex Ovechkin signed a worldwide management, sponsorship, licensing ,and marketing representation deal with IMG that should make him the most recognizable player in the game.
IMG does not have a specific division for hockey, but it is experienced in marketing hockey players; it handled the marketing of Wayne Gretzky and Jaromir Jagr when they were in the NHL. IMG will look to expand on Ovechkin’s current endorsement portfolio which includes CCM, Energizer, Hair Cuttery, and Hockey Ink.
Ovechkin’s style of play on the ice and personality off the ice provide the foundation for incredible potential in product endorsements. On the ice, Ovechkin has scored some of the most impressive highlight-reel goals in the history of the game and still has energy to make the huge hits that hockey fans love to see. Off the ice, his personality is on display in interviews showcasing his contagious smile (interview starts at 2:00), love for the fun of the game, and pre-game antics which include racing a utility cart around the arena. The city of Washington D.C. fell in love with Ovechkin over the past couple years and it shows in ticket sales- the Capitals sold out all 12,000 season tickets this year.
What role did Ovechkin’s agent play in acquiring this marketing deal with IMG? Ovechkin’s representation is a roundtable that consists of his father, mother, financial adviser George Landa, and attorney Stephen Screnci. All decisions involving Ovechkin’s career are made collectively by that group. It would definitely be interesting to sit in on a negotiation involving all those parties, and they are obviously doing something right.
For a little insight on the negotiation of his $124 million contract which Alex and his mother conducted without an agent, watch this video at the 2:40 mark. You’ll notice the language barrier makes it hard for Alex to express in English exactly what he means, but IMG said it isn’t worried about that.