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Versus Preps IndyCar, Hockey Promo Campaigns

Mar 22, 2009  •  Post A Comment

These are fast times at Versus.
Comcast’s sports cable network is launching promotional campaigns for its first season of IndyCar race coverage next month, as well as spots for the upcoming National Hockey League playoffs.
Since changing its name from Outdoor Life Network, Versus has been acquiring rights to more mainstream television sports. In addition to hockey and racing, it has college football, mixed martial arts and cycling coverage that includes the Tour de France.
Year-over-year ratings rose 14% for February, and the average age of the audience has dropped from 47 in 2008 to 43.
“We take sports and competition very serious,” said Bill Bergofin, senior VP of marketing for Versus. While other networks can joke around about sports, “We like to be the voice of the athlete, the television brand that ignites people’s inner competitor.”
For IndyCar, Versus has launched a campaign using the slogan “It’s a New Race,” filled with edgy music and graphics.

The images are selected “to bring attention to the speed and danger,” Mr. Bergofin said. “It’s a unique type of racing and a lot of great personalities.”
Versus will capture those personalities in subsequent spots that focus on drivers including Danica Patrick, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal and Tony Kanaan.
Those spots are being made by Henry Alex Rubin, whose credits include the documentary feature “Murderball,” about quadriplegics who play wheelchair rugby.
“We hired him to spend time with the drivers and get some insights into who they are,” Mr. Bergofin said.
Online, Versus is launching “Indy Rock,” which will tie together racing with popular culture. Among its features are driver playlists and rock bands talking about their love of IndyCar racing.
Versus’ first race is in St. Petersburg, Fla., on April 5. The network, which will show 12 events on cable (replacing ESPN’s coverage), will be surrounding the races with seven hours of programming a week.
“We take on a sport with the goal of providing passionate fans with in-depth coverage,” Mr. Bergofin said.
With hockey, Versus will be airing a series of double-header telecasts as the playoffs get under way.
Its new promo campaign for the playoffs uses the slogan “Every Single Second.”
“With hockey, anything can happen in any moment,” Mr. Bergofin said. “We figured there’s 378,000 seconds and you shouldn’t miss a single one. Any second can make a game, make a series or make a career.”
Last year’s playoffs were the league’s highest-rated since 2002, when ESPN aired them. Versus picked up hockey in 2004.
“Hockey on Versus has been on a hyperbolic growth path. We’re hoping this year we’re going to see more of the same,” Mr. Bergofin said.

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