X Games score big with advertisers

Aug 13, 2001  •  Post A Comment

If you’re looking for an example to counter all the gloomy tales of TV sellers rolling back their advertising rates this upfront season of discontent, then look no further than the X Games, which is sold out of undiscounted spots.
Of course ABC Sports and ESPN, which are airing the seventh annual edition of the action-sports games from Philadelphia Aug. 17 to 22, have the distinct advantage of selling a made-for-TV sports event that’s a major magnet for hard-to-reach young male demos.
Not only are the games sold out, but all the so-called “gold” and “associate” sponsors from last year-who are on board for integrated packages, promotions and other tie-ins-are back for this year’s competitions in such urban sports as skateboarding, street luge and Moto X.
The returning gold sponsors are 1-800 CALL-ATT for Collect Calls, Adidas America, Mountain Dew, Motorola, Taco Bell and Pontiac. Returning associate sponsors include Circuit City, Pacific Sunwear, the U.S. Marines, Wrigley’s Winterfresh and Hot Bites. First-time associate sponsors include Hershey’s Chocolate Milk, Right Guard Xtreme, Universal Pictures and PlayStation 2.
The gold and associate sponsorships of the X Games go for $3 million and $1 million, respectively, according to an official familiar with the deals.
Costs per thousand for the X Games are up from last year, said Ed Erhardt, president, customer marketing and sales, ESPN/ABC Sports. “In terms of our overall packaging, not necessarily only television CPMs, we were able to write positives on the X Games in this market,” he said. “That speaks to the fact that integrated packages [can] drive pricing and dollars and client involvement [and that] positive pricing can happen in any marketplace if you’ve got a good idea and a good product. You can make it work with integrated plans.”
“The value of the X Games is reflected in the … response by blue-chip brands to the sponsorship opportunities,” he added. “These deals allow sponsors to take advantage of fully integrated marketing platforms that drive sports fans to act and become involved with the X Games.”
Integrated sponsor packages include ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine and on-site-signage components. In addition, each gold sponsor receives an ESPN Radio advertising component.
Consider, for example, the in-line skater or some other young-adult-demo X Games role model munching on a Bagel Bite and washing it down with a big slurp of Hershey’s Chocolate Milk.
Last year, Bagel Bites “took all of their [advertising] money for a six-week period and put it against an integrated platform in the Winter X Games,” Mr. Erhardt said. Bagel Bites “changed their brand strategy from `it’s a product aimed at moms’ to a pull-through strategy where they aimed it at male tweens. … Sales jumped 27 percent.”
Similarly, Mr. Erhardt said, this year Hershey’s Chocolate Milk hopes to shed its warm and cozy image for something hipper and will put the X Games logo on 2 million cartons of chocolate milk.
Other promotional tie-ins are with Universal’s “The Fast and the Furious” theatrical film and with Circuit City, which is offering an X Games back-to-school pack.
Mountain Dew, one of the X Games’ original advertisers, is getting what Mr. Erhardt called a “significant amount of television time on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2; they’ll also have a page of advertising in ESPN magazine’s special section on X.”
In fact, Mr. Erhardt said, nearly half of all X advertising deals for $1 million or more have two media components, with one being one or more of the TV channels and the other being print, radio or the Internet.
The first four hours of the X Games are set to air on ABC Sports in four one-hour blocks; the rest of the games will be telecast on ESPN and ESPN 2, with nightly highlight shows set for ESPN. In all, the networks will televise 20.5 original hours, including afternoon, prime-time and late-night programming.