ESPN Celebrates 25th With Ops

ESPN is bringing some local cable operators and DirecTV Inc. into the marketing blitz behind its 25th anniversary, offering everything from local trivia contests to coupon books for subscribers.

The sports network has focused much of its local marketing effort on Comcast Corp. ESPN is sponsoring a “Traveling Sports Trivia Tour,” which will hit 18 markets served by the nation’s largest operator by summer’s end.

ESPN vice president of affiliate advertising sales and marketing Jeff Siegel said each Comcast system sold sponsorships to local advertisers, such as Gold’s Gym in Salt Lake City, to host the Trivia Tour.

The tour uses a mobile ESPN set and network talent, and pits viewers against one another in a sports trivia contest. The winner from each Comcast market gets a free trip to the ESPN Zone restaurant in New York for the network’s 25th anniversary party on Sept. 7.

In addition to the trivia contest, attendees at the local events can stop by an ESPN the Magazine kiosk, where they can have their pictures splashed across mock covers of the publication.

The Comcast tour, which kicked off May 2 in Seattle, has already hit Portland, Ore.; San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif.; and Salt Lake City. Upcoming stops include Denver (June 5); Dallas (June 12); Indianapolis; (June 19); Chicago (June 26); Detroit (July 3); Miami (July 10); Atlanta (July 17); Washington (July 24); Baltimore (July 31); Philadelphia (Aug. 7); and Pittsburgh (Aug. 14). The tour will end on Aug. 28 with an event in Comcast’s Boston system.

Siegel said ESPN is spending more than $500,000 on the promotion.

With the cable industry now controlled by a handful of mammoth operators, ESPN expects that it will create more customized promotions for affiliates, rather than generic promotions, Siegel said.

“We’re getting away from evergreen national promotions and we’re taking our strongest brands and strongest product and customizing it to help grow their [cable affiliates] business,” he added.

ESPN is also producing at least 500,000 passbooks for DirecTV Inc. and cable affiliates that contain coupons for discounts on ESPN products and services, as well as promotions from local operators and advertisers.

“You can use them as an acquisition tool or a retention tool,” Siegel said.

For instance, Mid-Hudson Cablevision’s Catskill, N.Y., system is using the passbooks to drive subscriptions for high-speed data and digital video recorders, while Centennial Communications Inc. in Puerto Rico is deploying them to help drive distribution for ESPN Deportes, the programmer’s Spanish-language sister network.

Cablevision Systems Corp., Comcast and Galaxy Cablevision are among the other operators that will use the passbooks.

Siegel said ESPN is also supplying cable operators with taggable spots for its 32 hours of 25th anniversary programming.