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KHL renews with sponsors, hails new data offering

Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League has extended sponsorship deals with Hankook, MegaFon, Mastercard and SOGAZ for its 2019-20 season, along with detailing what it claims to be a data project that is the first of its kind.

The KHL’s 12th season got underway on Sunday. Korean tyre manufacturer Hankook, a supplier and official tyre partner to the League since 2017 has signed a three-season extension running through to the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

Han-Jun Kim, president of Hankook Tire Europe, said: “Together with the League, we want to draw attention to road safety and give all hockey fans something that cannot be bought for money: a sense of security and self-confidence in our team.”

Russian telco MegaFon has supported the KHL since its formation in 2008. It has extended its partnership for the 2019-20 season. Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the KHL, said: “We have many joint actions, at MegaFon Hockey Star Week, the fastest mobile internet gives fans the opportunity to download everything they need, and they pump out a huge amount of traffic.

“We have many technological projects based on fast internet, I am sure that our cooperation will continue.”

US payment services company Mastercard has been an official partner of the KHL since 2015. Its new agreement will run across the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. Chernyshenko said: “Since 2016, we have jointly offered the Priceless League. I believe that such activations have yet to take place in the world, actions that unite players and fans. This is an incredible find, and every time we observe with interest what the choice of fans will be.

“Last season, over a million votes were cast for their favourite hockey players, about 10,000 fans took part in the project.”

Finally, Russian insurance group SOGAZ, which like MegaFon has partnered the KHL since it was founded, has also agreed a one-season extension covering 2019-20.

Chernyshenko added: “The company is a leader in the insurance market of Russia, every year several thousand hockey players, coaches, referees and League employees receive reliable protection from SOGAZ. The company takes an active part in various activations and prepares special prizes as part of the Hockey Stars Week.”

Meanwhile, the KHL has lauded a new data analytics offering introduced for the 2019-20 season, which it states will provide new standards of fan experience. Data capture technology has been installed in every KHL arena, with the League this season including teams in Latvia, Finland, Belarus, Kazakhstan and China, as well as Russia.

Players’ jerseys will be equipped with data gathering chips, while smart pucks will be utilised to deliver real-time data to fans, coaching staff and broadcast partners. Sergey Dobrokhvalov, KHL vice-president for marketing and communications, told the League’s official website: “This technology can be used by anyone who is interested in the results, from TV companies and websites to scouts and bookmakers.

“The coaching staff of our teams will also be able to access the information. The world of sport is embracing AI technology and this solution offers advanced stats and analytics which can help coaches make the right decisions during every game.”

From the opening game of the season, the new statistical information has been displayed on the media cubes at all KHL arenas. The League said there is potential to bring partners on board to help monetise the system. In addition, the KHL’s mobile app users can access more information about every game, and the performance of all players, in real time.

Dobrokhvalov added: “In any given game, we have a new range of stats based around the distance travelled on the ice. There’s a summary for each team, and a player-by-player break down. We can show the fastest speeds and the time on the ice. This information can be made available for a specific game, or for the whole season. As more games are played, more metrics can be added and visualised.

“The main audience is our fans. They will be able to see all of this in-depth analysis via the website, via the app and on our KHL-TV channel. And it all happens in real time, with no waiting to gather and collate information. During the games, the coaching staff will be able to access a special package giving them all this information.”