Written by: Neil Acharya
Follow: @Neil_Acharya

It’s the same old story, right?

A pro team makes a run to the championship and the economic impact is felt across the service and hospitality industry.

Bars, restaurants and hotels reap the financial gain while civic pride is at an all-time high.

How about the exposure their city gets when it's one of two teams that are the focal point of network coverage across Canada and the United States?

For Edmonton, this season’s Stanley Cup playoff push by the Oilers means a free advertisement for the city.

“It's going to amplify Edmonton across the world,” said Doug Griffiths, CEO and president of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. “If we wanted the same kind of publicity and economic spinoff that would come from a marketing campaign, I don’t think we could spend enough money to get the kind of marketing for Edmonton and our region right now.”

Explore Edmonton, the city’s destination management and marketing organization, agrees with the assessment. 

In data collected in partnership with the hockey club, they estimate that the economic impact has been the influx of $170 million into the local economy over the first three rounds.

They feel the exposure is exponential to that figure.

“It’s priceless for us,” says Janelle Janis, executive director, event and business development. “Explore Edmonton’s budget could never begin to cover this kind of global reach.”

The organization decided to ride the wave by launching a cheeky marketing campaign around Amerant Bank Arena, home of the Florida Panthers.

Strategically placed billboards spell out - Edmonton: Home of 5 Cups and Zero Rats. Explore Canada’s Hockey City.

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“It’s placed with the intention of creating some good natured competition between Edmonton and Florida,” Janis says. “Of course we have the skyline shot of the northern lights, leaning into our reputation as a winter and hockey city. It’s different than anything they really have in south Florida.”

It’s a clever way to go beyond the name recognition, stock shots of the city skyline, stadium and Ice District images that viewers would see on a game day broadcast or news hits pertaining to coverage of the Stanley Cup Final.  

It also helps that the city has been mentioned by US celebrities like Jimmy Fallon and Charles Barkley, notoriety that goes beyond the traditional broadcast and stretches into viral posts on social media.  

Brian Soebbing, Associate Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation - Academic Programs at the University of Alberta says the idea of "free media advertising" or "increased community visibility" related to seeing the city and/or sports facilities on TV has been a discussion for decades and it is hard to quantify with precise data.

Regardless, the drive to playoffs presents an opportunity to drive interest in Edmonton as a destination for tourists, especially in new markets.