Marketing

'X’ Drives Demand for Comcast

7/08/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

In what’s being billed as an industry first, Comcast Spotlight has signed local ad-sales deals in three markets, tying in an on-demand sweepstakes driving fans interested in ESPN’s X Games to a dedicated Internet micro site.

The pacts give Comcast in-market sponsors exclusivity for the “Win the X-Perience On Demand Sweepstakes” that will ultimately provide the winner with a trip to Camp Woodward, an alternative sports facility, and instruction from X Games BMX star Kevin Robinson.

Bob’s Stores in Boston, Medieval Times in Baltimore and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco have bought the packages.

ANTEING UP $1M

Together, the three sponsors are ponying up more than $1 million for the sweepstakes sponsorship and attendant ad buys to run in local breaks during ESPN and ABC’s coverage of the 11th iteration of the Summer X Games from Aug. 4 to 8.

Comcast Spotlight vice president of marketing and communications Vicki Lins said the MSO’s ad-sales unit has been pursuing this type of model for around a year.

“Our advertisers have been expressing interest in getting involved with [video on demand] and local ad sales. ESPN finally cracked the code,” she said.

“We’ve heard Comcast for some time saying they wanted to sell the local ad-sales triangle of linear TV, VOD and the Internet,” said Pete O’Connell, manager of affiliate ad sales for Disney ABC Media Networks. “This is something we could do in-house with the X Games [on TV and VOD] and then bring it online with the sweepstakes.”

O’Connell said the pacts speak to the “power of ESPN and the strength of ESPN as an ad brand. Their clients jumped on this quickly.”

Lins noted that Comcast Spotlight only began offering the packages in mid-June. It remained in pursuit of a fourth market pact at press time.

“It drives brand awareness for ESPN and the X Games,” Lins said. “It drives tune-in for the X Games. It builds value for our clients. And the sweepstakes holds value for consumers.”

The Win the X-Perience On-Demand Tab Sweepstakes is positioned as a separate tab under the sports/fitness section of Comcast’s free on-demand service to digital-video customers in those markets.

There, viewers will be greeted by a “brought to you by” aural and visual identifier from the sponsor, followed by the company’s 30-second spot.

A sweepstakes message — replete with action footage from past X Games winners like Tony Hawk, Mike Metzger and Robinson — describes the contest and the aforementioned prizes and directs users to the site (www.wintheXperience.com), which goes live on July 18. The local sponsor’s branding, guided by zip code, will be affixed to the site.

The “video sizzle” concludes with a pair of closing billboards for the sweepstakes, one adorned with Comcast, the finale with the sponsor’s logo.

ESPN 'OD’ PREVIEW

The sweepstakes package grew out of Comcast’s free summer preview of ESPN On Demand, from June 27 to Aug. 31. Viewers throughout July can see 2004 Summer X Games review programming, showcasing features, including the making of the Summer X Games, athlete profiles and tips. Next month, viewers will see time-shifted highlights from the 2005 Summer X Games, as well as an exclusive on-demand skateboard “Vert Best Trick” event.

Lins said Comcast Spotlight is continuing discussions with other major programmers — including Discovery Networks U.S., Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and MTV Networks — about similar local-ad-sales and on-demand combination deals, maybe with some twists. “We’ll probably have a little bit more breathing room to put something together,” she said. “There could be a tiering situation, where there is perhaps a national sponsor overlay, and maybe additional local ad sales components. We want to be really flexible.”

THIS IS A TEST

Although ESPN said it would look to do more similar packages going forward, O’Connell emphasized this deal is “clearly a test, a one-off. We will step back and evaluate the results.”

He declined to comment when queried about whether ESPN has potential interest in integrating advertising within on-demand content itself.

September