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Hockey Fans Warm Up with Dunkin’

Hockey Fans Warm Up with Dunkin’

Sarah Steimer

dunkin snapshot

Tapping its NHL and U.S.A Women’s Hockey connections, Dunkin’ Donuts engaged with fans off the ice at the 2018 Stadium Series

It’s 6 a.m. and mom or dad are trucking their child—foul hockey gear in tow—to the ice rink. The only redeeming part of their morning may be a doughnut and the cup of coffee that keeps their hands warm as they watch from the stands.

Dunkin’ Donuts saw this connection between cold mornings and a hot cuppa and struck at the chance to be the unofficial sponsor of early morning practices, as well as the corporate marketing partner of the National Hockey League, the National Women’s Hockey League and U.S. Hockey. Dunkin’ has also become a mainstay at NHL jewel events, which include the Winter Classic, All-Star Weekend and the Stadium Series.


The typical Dunkin’ experience for most customers consists of popping by a walk-up window or sliding into a drive-thru for coffee, doughnuts or a breakfast sandwich. The brief stop is typically what fuels their morning.

Dunkin’ Brands wanted to capture consumers’ and hockey fans’ attention for longer than the morning rush. The company was interested in gaining in-person customer feedback and offering samples of products that customers might not otherwise try. It was a chance to extend the interaction longer than the time it takes to order, pay and leave. Through its partnership with national hockey organizations, Dunkin’ saw an opportunity to spend time with one of its key demographics: People looking to warm up.


“That’s the best way we can get customer feedback, and that’s the way we connect with our fans on site,” says Kemma Kefalas, assistant marketing manager for Dunkin’ Brands. “We want to give them a new type of Dunkin’ experience—something really fun and something that’s near and dear to their hearts: hockey. This is just a way to engage them, have some fun, to put Dunkin’ front of mind and remember how much fun they had that day at our activation.”


With the help of Fenway Sports Management and Sapient, Dunkin’ Brands set up a branded experience tent at the NHL’s 2018 Stadium Series in March, held at the Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, where the Washington Capitals played the Toronto Maple Leafs. Fans could engage with the campaign for a few hours prior to the game’s start.

“[Dunkin’] really felt like the demographic around the hockey world and that hard-working, diehard hockey fan was what they were going after,” says Kate Hogan, director of consulting and events at Fenway Sports. “When we were talking about what to do at the jewel events for the NHL, we were focused on finding something that would appeal to those fans.”

The “Brewed for This” Zone was stocked with Dunkin’-branded games, all centered around a shared love for hockey and a desire to stay warm in chilly temperatures. A DJ played music for guests to dance along to, accompanied by a grooving Dunkin’ Cuppy, the brand’s mascot. Guests could take advantage of the on-site photo booth, raising a giant Dunkin’ cup over their head, mimicking the way NHL players hoist the Stanley Cup overhead after winning the playoffs. The photo booth was set up, so pictures could be sent directly to users’ phones, allowing them to post the photo to social media, tag Dunkin’ Donuts and engage with the company online.

Dunkin’ offered samples of coffee, hot chocolate, iced coffee and Munchkins doughnut holes. There were air hockey games and bubble hockey games for fans to pass the time before the real game began.

Dunkin’ also tapped its partnership with the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team. Five members of the team, which won gold at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, visited the tent to take photos with guests, including team captain Meghan Duggan. 

“They had their gold medals on them, which was a nice way for fans to experience something that they might never be able to get near, touch or see in their lives,” Kefalas says.

While fans waited in line to meet the Olympians, the Dunkin’ team found a family at the highest point of the stadium and gave the lucky fans, who drove three hours from Pennsylvania, a seat upgrade.


Dunkin’ Brands measured its success by the number of samples distributed. At this Stadium Series event, the company gave away 4,000 Munchkins samples, 1,500 4-ounce cups of hot chocolate, 1,300 4-ounce cups of coffee and 300 3.5-ounce cups of cold brew. 

“It was really fantastic to see so many fans engaged with the team,” Hogan says. “And [fans] were staying in the booth. They didn’t just take their picture and leave. They were playing, they were sampling, they were dancing with Cuppy. It was a great draw, but we found fans were sticking around a while as well.”

At all NHL jewel events throughout the 2016-17 season, the company distributed 14,000 Munchkins, 12,600 coffee samples and 1,900 hot chocolate samples.

The young daughter of the Pennsylvania family was a big fan of Duggan and got to both meet the hockey star and wear her gold medal, Hogan says. The girl’s mother shared a surprise anecdote with Hogan as well: She rewards her daughter weekly for doing her chores and homework with a trip to Dunkin’ to get her favorite strawberry frosted doughnut.

“She kind of just went crazy when she had a chance to meet Meghan [Duggan],” Hogan says. “Sports fans are Dunkin’ fans many times, so we want to use our sports sponsorships to help share that access for these fans, to give them the upgraded opportunity on behalf of Dunkin’. ” 

Sarah Steimer is a writer, editor, podcast producer, and yoga teacher living in Chicago. She has written for Marketing News, Chicago magazine, Culture magazine, the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette, and other outlets.