ESPN's 'Outdoor Games': Westward, Ho!

ESPN is moving its "Great Outdoor Games" franchise westward to Reno-Tahoe, Nevada, next summer, after two years in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Charter Communications Inc. will serve as the affiliate partner in that market, following Lake Placid partner Adelphia Communications Corp.

Charter has long wanted to host one of ESPN's events, said network vice president of affiliate ad sales and marketing Jeff Siegel. After surveying its various markets, the MSO decided Reno-Tahoe made the best site, he said.

In a statement, Charter Western region senior vice president Tom Schaefer said the MSO is looking forward to "joining [ESPN] in their promotions effort."

ESPN will offer Charter opportunities in ESPN the Magazine, the ESPN Zone and ESPN's local Clubhouse Web sites, as well as inventory in ESPN's in-flight deals with airlines, said Siegel.

As a presenting sponsor, Charter will promote the games heavily on the local, regional and national levels. Its plans will encompass marketing (such
as demonstrating high-speed modems on site) and ad-sales aspects, Siegel noted.

Charter and other MSOs will again use the trip as a reward for employee recognition, ad-sales incentives and customer-loyalty programs, he said.

Once again, DaimlerChrysler's Dodge is the Great Outdoor Games's presenting sponsor, having driven a multiyear deal last summer. Charter and other affiliates will again pitch Dodge dealerships at the local and regional levels, Siegel said. Other strong advertising categories include fast food, insurance, boating and fishing and tackle.

Heading into its fourth year, the event involves more than 200 human and canine competitors in 20 events, across four days (July 10 to 13) and four sports disciplines — timber (including log rolling), target (archery), and sporting-dogs and fishing competitions. Taped on-air coverage will appear one week later, with ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC expected to carry about 20 hours of original coverage, plus repeats.

Last summer's Outdoor Games drew 60,000 people to Lake Placid, which enjoyed a resultant $10 million economic boost, according to ESPN.