Taking VOD on the Road

Oct 24, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Sportskool, a niche on-demand sports instructional service, will launch an 11-city national skate park tour in November hosted by standout performer Mike Vallely.

It’s the latest marketing initiative and athlete sponsorship for the service, which offers tutorials for skateboarding and other trendy sports.

Rainbow Media-owned sportskool will serve as the presenting sponsor for demos, in-store appearances and concerts in Atlanta, Nashville, Raleigh, N.C., and other cities, said Dan Ronayne, general manager and senior VP of sportskool.

Sportskool launched skateboarding instruction from Mr. Vallely (known as Mike V among the skateboarding cognoscenti) this summer and at that time arranged press appearances for Mr. Vallely to perform and talk about skateboarding and sportskool on ESPNEWS, Fox and Fuse.

For the tour, the sportskool logo will appear on his skateboards, posters, fliers, banners and other promotional materials. “He’s a street skater, an urban skater. He uses the neighborhood and the world as his skate park,” Mr. Ronayne said.

One reason sportskool has aligned with Mr. Vallely is that he’s a positive role model and has a high profile among the sport’s devotees, Mr. Ronayne said. “He is an interesting guy who really believes skateboarding saved his life, kept him away from trouble as a kid,” he said.

Mr. Ronayne added that sportskool also chose to sponsor the skateboarder to gain credibility. “Any and every brand in the world of sports has to have credibility. It’s increasingly important to work with athletes who have that credibility and that name recognition. In skateboarding there are a few people to turn to,” he said.

The partnership also affords sportskool the chance to engage in event marketing and to specifically reach its niche target group of skateboarders for this particular area of instruction. But there’s an inherent risk, because sportskool is not a national service. The network reaches about 10 million on-demand homes, but some attendees at the tour will invariably live in homes that don’t have the service.

Mr. Ronayne isn’t worried; he said he hopes to encourage sampling and to build the sportskool brand through the tour and sponsorship. Also, the network has grown in the past year from about 1 million homes to 10 million. It began its Comcast rollout in July.

Sportskool has also hitched its wagon to soccer star Mia Hamm for soccer instruction videos. “She embodies very clearly the values of sportskool,” Mr. Ronayne said. As the service rolls out with Comcast, sportskool will offer free soccer clinics to 10 youngsters in Comcast market s around the country. The giveaway runs throughout October.