Golf Takes a Beer 'Break’

To help promote the third version of its reality competition show, The Golf Channel is going off course.

The Comcast Corp.-owned service is partnering with Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra brand on a multimedia integrated campaign behind the upcoming Big Break III: Ladies Only, highlighted by the network’s first-ever retail sweepstakes with convenience store chain 7-Eleven, as well as the placement of a number of the brewer’s holdings into the content of the series, which bows on Feb. 8.

With Golf moving the show to the distaff side of the course for the first time, 10 women, found via a nationwide search, will compete in various golf challenges that test their mental and physical skills. (Kip Henley recently won Big Break II, earning four exemptions onto the Professional Golfers Association’s Nationwide Tour, among other prizes.)

The 11-episode series will eliminate one contestant each week before the grand-prize winner gains entry into select Ladies Professional Golf Association tournaments, including the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill, from May 5 to 8, and the LPGA Corning Classic, May 26 to 29.

Anheuser-Busch owns the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., and also sponsors LPGA players Lori Kane and Kelli Kuehne. Golf senior vice president of advertising sales Gene Pizzolato said A-B has bought time intermittently on the network, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next month, over the years.

“But we’re always looking for opportunities to integrate sponsors,” he said. “This one made a lot of sense because we believe in the Big Break franchise, we cover the LPGA and Anheuser-Busch is a major tour backer. They also have assets/facilities that helped bring things together.”

Along those lines, Pizzolato said the series will not only show the women competing for the opportunity to play in the LPGA events, but will “give the audience a chance to get to know them off the course. There will be segments taped with the contestants relaxing at [Anheuser-Busch-owned theme parks] Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens.”

Grand prize winners in “The Michelob Ultra Big Break III sweepstakes presented by The Golf Channel” will receive a trip for two to the 2005 Michelob Ultra at Kingsmill event and a spot in the pro-am tournament.

In addition, weekly prizes, from golf equipment to Michelob Ultra/Big Break III co-branded tchotchkes, will be awarded to watch-and-win contests who correctly answer online trivia questions from each episode. Separately, A-B will work with more than 5,000 7-Eleven outlets on its own sweepstakes contest, which, along with the series, will be touted by such in-store promotional materials as cooler stickers, danglers and case cards.

The Michelob Ultra brand will support the initiative through print buys in golf titles and other publications, as well as a TV schedule. For its part, Golf will promote the sweepstakes on its air. At press time, Pizzolato said the channel was evaluating buys on other networks and in print to support the series and attendant sweepstakes.

As part of the 2005 sell-in process for Michelob Ultra that will commence in January, Pizzolato expects the relationship to yield point-of-purchase materials with tune-in, sweepstakes messages at participating wholesalers and distributors, as well as through messages on hanging signs, table tent cards and other displays in restaurants and bars.

He also anticipates that viewing parties for Big Break III will be organized at various venues.