The short story of the NWHL has been full of surprises, but the one revealed this week has been the best thus far.
On Tuesday, Dunkin’ Donuts officially announced its sponsorship of the NWHL during a press conference at TD Garden. Buffalo Beauts' captain Meghan Duggan received a "personal services contract" from Dunkin,' which will be identical to the relationship they have with David Ortiz and Rob Gronkowski. Picture this: a cardboard cutout of Meghan Duggan in Dunkin’ Donuts stores across Western New York with the slogan "Duggan runs on Dunkin!"
According to Tom Manchester, the vice president of field marketing for Dunkin' Brands, the company does not reveal the term or financial details or any of their sponsorships. However, he was able to say that "we are in it for the long haul with these folks and with these players because we want to see them succeed."
Many have been critical and doubtful of the NWHL’s lack of a sponsor, but a spectacular one fell into their lap. It was Dunkin' that first reached out to the league to express its interest in supporting them financially.
"It couldn’t have been a more refreshing phone call to receive from such an iconic brand," league commissioner Dani Rylan said. Selecting a brand ambassador and hosting youth clinics was Dunkin’s suggestion as well. "It was like I was hearing what I wanted on the other end," Rylan said.
Additionally, every NWHL player will be receiving a personalized Dunkin’ gift card worth $400 with their team’s logo on it. The Dunkin’ logo will be displayed on goal posts during select games in the form of a removable decal and will also appear behind the penalty boxes, according to a league representative. Until the teams have their own rinks, sponsors cannot purchase ad space along the boards. A small patch of the Dunkin logo will be affixed on the players’ jerseys, directly below the NWHL logo.
Unrelated to any of this, Rylan confirmed that the NWHL has been working with Patrick Burke of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to review a handful of hits. Hopefully this means that more details are forthcoming about the NWHL’s player safety code, of which we know next to nothing. The NWHL is not without its faults, just like any sports league, but today’s event focused on the positive impact it is having.
Above all, the Dunkin sponsorship represents an investment and belief in women’s hockey itself.
While waiting in the lobby of the Garden, Duggan and fellow Team USA player Brianna Decker waved to the group of young female hockey players waiting outside in the cold. Over 20 girls and their parents arrived more an hour early because they could not contain their excitement. Three girls’ teams, the Islanders Hockey Club, Assabet Valley, and the East Coast Wizards would be participating in a youth hockey clinic on the Garden ice, another piece of Dunkin’s sponsorship. According to Rylan, there will be 20 clinics held across all four NWHL markets this year.
Duggan opened the door and said to the group, "you guys wanna take a selfie?"
"Yes!" was the unanimous reply, high-pitched and ecstatic. Decker, who is much shorter than Duggan, ducked into the group and blended in almost perfectly with the group of kids.
This is why this sponsorship is important.