Since joining the NHL in 2015, Steve Mayer has long aimed to raise the bar when it comes to the integration of music into hockey.
Mayer, the league’s chief content officer, came to the league from IMG Productions where he made his career not only producing top sports events and ceremonies like the Olympic Games but also network variety specials and documentary shows like the Battle of the Network Stars.
That has led to things like a concert featuring The Killers and Lenny Kravitz during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey to having big-name acts perform alongside the Stanley Cup Final, ranging from Lil Nas X to Panic! At The Disco to Sting.
Now the league is rolling out the next evolution of its music strategy via a new cross-platform partnership with Grammy Award-winning band Green Day.
Mayer said the league and Green Day have developed a relationship dating back to 2016 when the band was originally booked to perform at the World Cup of Hockey before needing to back out due to illness. The two sides have stayed in touch the last few years, and when Mayer got word that the band was coming out with new music this fall around the same time as the NHL season gets started, “the stars seemed to be aligning,” he said.
“We got in a room and brainstormed – literally everything was thrown out there,” Mayer said.
One idea that stuck was the idea to have NHL telecasts open with a performance that also featured players, similar to what the NFL and NBC do for Sunday Night Football.
“We went to [NBC Sports executive producer] Sam Flood and within 12 seconds of us telling him the idea he said ‘let’s do it,’” Mayer said.
That helped lead to the broader deal with Green Day, which will see the band’s yet-to-be-released song ‘Fire, Ready, Aim’ off its new album serve as the opening theme for NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Hockey, as well as featured on NHL on NBC broadcasts during the season. NBC Sports produced a show open with the band playing the song on a hockey rink, which is interspersed with action shots of more than a dozen NHL players.
“The buy-in from NBC has been significant, from dedicating people to producing this to creative to the budget,” Mayer said.
“Steve [Mayer] came to us at the start of the summer saying he had an opportunity to work with a group that obviously is iconic in that space. And we think it fits really well with hockey. The song the way it’s been executed will be a lot of fun,” said Sam Flood, NBC Sports executive producer and president of production.
Flood noted that other rights that NBC Sports holds have a song attached to the broadcast and the idea presented by the NHL “was a good opportunity to play in this space.”
“We’ve had other options in the past but nothing to this level that we felt would have an impact and be a signature item at the top of the show,” Flood said. “Obviously Sunday Night Football, with what we’ve done there and [NBC’s Sunday Night Football executive producer] Freddy Gaudelli and the Sunday night group, this is a different direction. We think it’s going to be a lot of fun and are pleased that the opportunity came through the NHL to make this happen.”
Also, songs from Green Day’s new album will be featured in NHL game highlights, broadcast bumpers, tune-in campaigns, and in-arena jumbotron content created by the league, its teams and its television partners.
Green Day will perform at the 2020 NHL All-Star Game, which will be played on January 25 in St. Louis.
Mayer said he views this deal as an evolution of the way that the NHL will work with musicians going forward and how their music is incorporated into the NHL.
“We view this as a win-win for the NHL and Green Day, and frankly would be a win-win for any artist – there’s a lot we can do with a musical artist,” Mayer said. “We think we’ve evolved the way we’ve worked with music, and as we as a league have become more popular with musicians, it has switched to where musicians, labels, agents and management are saying, ‘hey NHL, how about us?’”
Mayer said this deal with Green Day is not exclusive, and that the league “would welcome putting on a plan of this significance with multiple acts.”
“We don’t view the NHL as being about one genre of music, whether that’s rock, or country or hip-hop,” Mayer said. “Ultimately we view this as an opportunity to speak to people in Green Day’s world of more than 10 million fans that aren’t NHL fans, as well as to people in ours that aren’t Green Day fans.”
The deal requires the NHL to clear a significant amount of music for every use, and the league negotiated both that and the live performance as one package with the band and its management, Mayer said, declining to comment further on the league’s financial commitment in this specific deal. NBC covered the cost of producing the video and the opening.
Mayer said this deal will see the NHL move into the next phase of its music plan, and the league is currently looking at other opportunities to bring music into hockey.
“Does that mean doing concerts and other big events? A soundtrack? There are a lot of ways we could go here,” Mayer said. “We’re hopeful that one thing leads to the next.”