Verizon signs $30M ad deal with ESPN/ABC

Dec 16, 2002  •  Post A Comment

In a deal indicative of the increased symbiosis between advertisers and media, Verizon Wireless signed a two-year agreement with ESPN and ABC Sports that includes sharing content in addition to ad buys.
The media and content deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, according to a source close to the negotiations.
ABC will unwrap the deal, which runs through 2004, on its Christmas Day basketball telecast, when it will inaugurate Verizon’s sponsorship of the National Basketball Association Halftime Report, which will then be known as the Verizon Wireless Halftime Report.
Another important aspect of the deal for ESPN is that it calls for Verizon to provide ESPN-branded games, news and other information as part of its premium phone service. For example, Verizon will now offer real-time scores and headlines derived from ESPN’s Bottomline sports ticker, as well as X Games skateboarding and snowboarding games and even phone ring tones that play the ESPN “SportsCenter” theme.
And Verizon Wireless will feature ESPN in a variety of promotional platforms, ranging from in-store materials and the Internet to local and national television, radio and newspaper ads.
The ABC-ESPN-NBA relationship “allows us to create a content relationship,” said Ed Erhardt, president, customer marketing and sales, ESPN ABC Sports. “It allows us to create a broader relationship with Verizon in one of our core properties, the X Games, and … Verizon is going to market our games on their phones as one of their premium products.” In addition, he said, Verizon will put “significant dollars” behind the ESPN brand.
Verizon Wireless is also signing on as a silver, or associate, sponsor for both annual editions of ESPN’s popular X Games franchise.
The deal demonstrates the vigor of the NBA marketplace, Mr. Erhardt said. Both the NBA and the X Games, a core ESPN franchise, appeal to the same desirable young male demo, he said. “This is one of the reasons why we feel the NBA property is a very valuable property for us, because it allows us to bring larger, more expansive relationships to a variety of properties,” he said. “It’s a good deal for ESPN and ABC Sports long term.”
The deal includes a category-specific first-look product placement and integration opportunity for Verizon in all projects from ESPN Original Entertainment, ESPN’s original production unit.
The media aspects of the deal were handled by Peggy Green, president of national broadcast, Zenith Media Services, and Wendy Marquardt, president, VmZ.
Marvin Davis, VP, advertising, Verizon Wireless, handled the deal for the wireless communications provider.
“Our overall strategy is to be able to bring exclusive wireless content services to Verizon Wireless services,” Mr. Davis said. To that end, he said, ESPN-ABC is a “strong media partner.”