Dish Sponsors Toon Tour

In this promotional tale, the Dish drives away with the Toon. EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network this summer will help Toon Disney discover some of the most animated kids across the country.

The programmer plans to bring its "Most Animated Kids" truck tour to 20 stops in 15 markets. The tour started in San Diego on June 22 and ends in Los Angeles on August 18. In between — at such venues as public parks and the parking lots of Dish retailers — stops will include such top markets as Denver, Dallas and Chicago. Dish will serve as the tour's sole sponsor this summer.

At the events, children take a screen test to vie for the reputation as the most animated kid in town. Winners in each market receive a gift basket, an on-air appearance in a Toon Disney promotion and a chance at the national grand prize — a trip to California, along with the opportunity to be transformed into a cartoon character and written into an upcoming episode of a Toon Disney series.

Toon Disney hosts the event to bring its viewers in touch with its brand at the local level, and to encourage tune-in and subscriber acquisition, said Toon Disney vice president of marketing Elizabeth Bohannon.

The tour gives Dish the chance to pitch its service and sign up customers on the spot at its retail stops along the tour, which will include Sears Roebuck & Co., H.H. Gregg and Media Play.

Programmers typically sign on any number of cable affiliates to sponsor their nationwide promotional tours. But this year, Toon Disney chose EchoStar as its exclusive tour sponsor owing to the success the two enjoyed in a more limited partnership last year.

Logistically, it's also easier to focus on key markets when working with a single partner, Bohannon said.

Toon Disney continues to partner with cable operators for other promotions, including a sweepstakes with Comcast Corp. also scheduled for this summer.

At a new games area on the Most Animated Kids tour, the programmer will be able to promote new shows it expects to launch in the fall. Clips of its fall lineup will be screened at kiosks at each of the venues.

Toon Disney also plans to bring along character cut-outs, so children can pose for photographs with them.

Visiting kids can also color Toon Disney animation cels and take them home with them.

"It's a way to take [the Disney brand] around the country locally," Bohannon said.