As the National Hockey League returns to The Walt Disney Company and ESPN’s collection of television and direct-to-consumer streaming platf...
As the National Hockey League returns to The Walt Disney Company and ESPN’s collection of television and direct-to-consumer streaming platforms, ESPN will debut a brand-new, cross-platform creative identity for its coverage. The identity combines the authenticity of legends past with the elegance of the modern game in a powerful, fluid identity, rooted in cutting edge design.
“The power of Creative Studio aligning on all parts of the NHL’s return to The Walt Disney Company and ESPN platforms is simply unmatched,” said Carrie Brzezinski-Hsu, vice president, ESPN Creative Studio. “We put together a cohesive strategy for all parts of this project – everything from design identity, animation and music to ad integration, edit vignettes and digital storytelling – that come together to evolve the overall viewing experience for fans and our partners across the enterprise.”
When developing this brand-new system, the ESPN Creative Studio team kept several goals in mind, including catering to a younger demographic and leveraging technical innovations (player tracking, AR and real-time stats), while also remaining true to the unwritten language of the game and maintaining a strong respect for the history of hockey.
“NHL is the first project of this size and scope developed within our newly formed ESPN Creative Studio,” said Ben Bieglecki, senior manager, Creative Operations. “The final product is a result of company-wide collaborations and it displays the ECS team’s dedication and passion for the sport of hockey that we hope will strike a chord with both old and new fans. Opening Night is only the beginning for us as we continue to develop the creative in support of the All-Star Game, Playoffs, and ultimately the Stanley Cup Finals in June 2022.”
Tim O’Shaughnessy, creative director, Visual Storytelling added, “for the last 6 months we’ve had an absolute blast creating this design campaign that merges the fearless intensity of the NHL with our brand here at ESPN. This is an opportunity that we’ve been dreaming of since our last ESPN NHL broadcast 17 years ago and I speak for our entire team when I say this has been a creatives’ dream come true.”
ESPN’s Creative Studio set out to create a future-proof design system that partners with a universally adaptable branding language for the NHL on ESPN across all linear and direct-to-consumer platforms. Clever nods to the culture of hockey can be seen throughout the identity, but it remains true to the dauntless essence of the sport's presence.
Remaining true to ESPN’s history with NHL, the ESPN Creative Studio team also reimagined the classic NHL on ESPN theme music for both a nostalgic and new audience. The updated theme package has a fierce, modern, cinematic feel that captures the passion, grit and intensity of the game. In addition to the update to the classic theme, EDM, Hip Hop, Pop and rock variations were also created. Elements of the classic theme remain present, creating a large soundtrack with enough variety that will provide for many more years of use.
“We are very excited to re-introduce the NHL theme to our fans,” said Claude Mitchell, coordinating director, Music. “Our challenge was to keep the nostalgia of the theme while updating the sound. We brought back the original composer Bob Christianson to develop a new recording and also engaged Kevin Bowe, Figure and Groove, Tom Hammer, Adrian Pinkard and Pull to do additional arrangements across a number of genres, enabling us to cement the new sonic identity of the ESPN hockey brand across all our programming.”