HbD InDepth: Thanksgiving Showdown Logo & Branding
Thankful for Hockey
Hockey isn’t the first sport that comes to mind when you think of Thanksgiving. With the NFL showcasing games in Detroit since 1934 and in Dallas since 1966, the competition for Turkey Day couch time is pretty tough. But the NHL has been quietly celebrating the November holiday with Black Friday Thanksgiving Showdown grudge matchups that offer ways to experience hip checks, roughing, elbowing and tripping without a trip to the local shopping mall.
The NHL Thanksgiving Showdown
In 2011, the National Hockey League launched their first Black Friday Thanksgiving Showdown in a game between the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Redwings that featured a 1PM puck drop.
The league’s strategy was twofold. First, no major sport dominates Black Friday, which is a prime day for male television viewership. And second, with the early Friday (or actually now even late Thanksgiving evening) store openings and sales, they figure most shoppers, are back home by early afternoon and in the perfect mindset to plop on the couch for a few hours of sports viewing. So why not offer a bad blooded, rival game to capture the already amped up hockey fans whose crowded mall experiences have left them with no way to let off steam?
A brilliant marketing strategy with just one small hitch. Canada’s Thanksgiving is celebrated in October and isn’t nearly as Black Friday-esque. So scratch out any Canadian teams from the featured matchups.
But with plenty of hot U.S. team rivalries to highlight, the series has endured since the inaugural 2011 game, leaning heavily toward the Boston Bruins who will have hosted games in 5 of the 8 years after this year.
(Ed. note: The Bruins will be wearing their new third jerseys for the first time for this year’s Thanksgiving Showdown. It’s also notable because we just broke them down in a separate post.)
To promote the series, the league introduced a leafy, Thanksgiving-themed badge logo. With a traditional brown and orange Thanksgiving color palette, its autumn-ish design included a series of red and orange leaves and crossed hockey sticks that made for a slick if not incredibly creative solution.
In the game, played before a raucous crowd that seemed unaffected by a potential tryptofane hangover, the Bruins suffered what would become their only Thanksgiving Showdown loss to date, falling to the visiting Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout.
The 2012 game was scrapped due to the NHL lockout, but was back on the schedule in 2013 with the Bruins hosting their hated rivals, the New York Rangers. The event logo was essentially the same, with a few small tweaks, including a different treatment for the Discover logo, who was the repeat sponsor of the event. NBC even created a needlepoint version of the logo in an apparent attempt to give it a homespun Thanksgiving feel.
The Bruins bounced back from their 2011 Showdown defeat and came from behind to beat Rangers 3-2. The event was highlighted by a clever television spot that featured Cam Neely and Mike Richter. It’s definitely worth watching for a good Boston Cream Pie vs. New York Cheesecake chuckle.
In 2014, the game moved to Philadelphia where the Flyers hosted their arch rival New York Rangers. The logo was changed only slightly (no needlepoint and fewer leaves). The promotion of the game featured the slogan “Black Friday Just Got Darker.” It did just that for the Flyers, who were shutout at home by Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers.
Black Friday 2015 saw the NHL try to take full advantage of the couch potato viewers and highlighted two games. In the early matchup, The Bruins hosted the Rangers (again) and bested them 4-3, while in the first West Coast-hosted Black Friday game, Anaheim lost to visiting Chicago 3-2.
The logo was simplified even more, as the color palette was trimmed to black, brown and red, the orange apparently making it too busy? This one marked a bit of a step backwards with the logo.
In 2016, the Philadelphia Flyers again hosted the New York Rangers and the broadcast intro highlighted the long-standing brutal rivalry that went back to the days of the Broad Street Bullies. The matchup was highlighted by a float in the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Strangely, a generic version of the logo affixed to the front of the float included no mention of the year.
2017 saw an all black-and-gold matchup that featured the Pittsburgh Penguins traveling to Boston for the Black Friday game. Thankfully (get it?) the orange color was returned to the logo (whew, I was sweating it out). Boston continued its Thanksgiving Showdown winning tradition, outlasting the Penguins 4-3.
The 2018 matchup was a rerun of the 2016 Flyers-Rangers game was promoted with a creative hand-turkey campaign that suggested “Be Thankful For Your Rivals,” and added a lighter tone to the previous “Black Friday Just Got Darker” approach.
Social media promotion also included a clever “breaking the wishbone” concept. The Flyers must have gotten the larger piece because they roasted the Rangers 4-0.
Which brings us to the 2019 game where the Rangers will again travel to Boston in the hopes of gaining another Thanksgiving Showdown victory after their humiliating 2018 loss to Philadelphia. This year’s game logo is also the generic version, which seems to be the league’s go-to logo from now on.
Their promotion of the game includes the addition of semi-embroidered patch logos for Boston and New York. However, the Bruins logo used in the artwork is the throwback “B” that was unveiled this week as part of their third jersey.
So if you are done with the NFL after binging on all three Thanksgiving Day football games, don’t forget you can still get your hockey fix on Friday at 1PM EDT. But HbD has a suggestion for the league…how about a little variety next year? There are a lot of us that have NHL teams that we are thankful for too. And our couches are ready and waiting.