More than one year after the Rigas family's Adelphia
Communications Corp. purchased the National Hockey League's Buffalo Sabres, the MSO
has launched a new TV-ad campaign featuring team members to sell its wide range of
products, including digital cable, high-speed Internet-access service "Power
Link" and telephony.
The campaign comes at a pivotal time for Coudersport,
Pa.-based Adelphia, which has spent the first half of this year on a shopping spree,
having bulked up to around 5 million subscribers with recent acquisitions including
Century Communications Corp. and FrontierVision Partners L.P.
A total of nine 30-second spots were shot just days after
the Sabres bowed out of the recent NHL Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Dallas Stars.
The campaign -- which was spearheaded by John Cimperman,
executive vice president of integrated marketing for the Sabres and regional vice
president, sales and marketing for Adelphia -- uses an offbeat, humorous approach to sell
Adelphia's product line.
For example, in a spot to sell its digital-cable product
and its increased channel offerings, two Sabres in full uniform are sitting in front of
the TV in the typical couch-potato glaze. One of the players is clicking through channels
with his remote as if he were shuffling a deck of cards, not staying on any channel for
more than a second or two.
In another commercial -- which touts Adelphia's
9-cent-per-minute, anywhere, anytime long-distance offer -- two of the Sabres'
Eastern European players engage in the old-fashioned American game of telephone
tomfoolery. One of the players dials up the Boston Bruins, a competing NHL team, and asks
the receptionist if she has "Prince Albert in a can."
In a follow up spot, they call the NHL's New York
Rangers, but instead of getting a live operator, they get a recorded menu of options.
Playing the part of Iron Curtain naives to the hilt, the players are stymied in their
attempt to play the "Knock knock, who's there?" joke because they
don't understand that they're talking to a recording. The spot ends as one of
the players complains, "New Yorkers -- no sense of humor."
"We wanted to show off the players'
personalities, which is why we took a soft-sell, humorous tone," Simperman said.
"Fans would be turned off if these guys were hard-sell pitchmen."
Simperman explained that this strategy also serves the
NHL's desire to make stars of its players, who -- with notable exceptions, like Wayne
Gretzky -- have not become household names like their basketball, baseball and football
The campaign was developed in conjunction with
Cleveland-based Wyse Advertising Inc., and it broke recently in the Sabres'
stronghold of western New York. It is slated to run for 14 months in markets including
southern Florida, New England, northeast Ohio, West Virginia and Los Angeles.
The campaign uses the tag line, "Adelphia. Your Link
for Everything," which was also used in the MSO's previous branding campaign
eight months ago.
In a similar vein, Cablevision Systems Corp., which is run
by the Dolan family, owns the Rangers and the National Basketball Association's New
York Knicks through its Madison Square Garden Holdings.
Knicks players were recently used in tune-in spots for the
regional Madison Square Garden Network, which airs Knicks, Rangers and New York Yankees
Major League Baseball games.
Simperman -- who has also done stints with the NHL's
Los Angeles Kings and the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers -- said it was purely
coincidental that the campaign dovetailed nicely into the buzz surrounding the
Sabres' appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.
"We've been thinking about ways to use the Sabres
to brand Adelphia and, at the same time, themselves for a while," said Simperman, who
was hired by the Rigases seven months ago.
"The challenge in my job is to know where the line is
as far as using the Sabres to promote Adelphia," he added. "For example, you
won't see Sabres logos on Adelphia trucks. There has to be an end benefit for the
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