TVKO to Emphasize Fighter in PPV Plan

With heavy emphasis on undisputed light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr., TVKO unveiled its multimedia marketing campaign last week for its Sept. 9 Jones-Eric Harding pay-per-view fight.

The campaign, dubbed "You Too Will Believe," will highlight Jones' ring exploits, which many boxing observers said have earned him the title of pound-for-pound best fighter in the world.

Yet while Jones has been virtually unbeatable in the ring, his success hasn't translated into strong PPV performances, mostly due to a dearth of strong competition in his division.

And while his opponent, Harding, is the division's No. 1 contender, he is not well known outside of boxing circles.

"Our marketing approach is to position Roy Jones in the same category as people see Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan," TVKO senior vice president of programming Mark Taffet said. "With those guys, you don't expect him to lose, but you watch them anyway to see if they can take their performances to the next level."

Unlike most PPV boxing events, the Jones-Harding fight does not include a beer distributor as its title sponsor.

Sports-apparel retailer Nike Inc.'s Jordan Brand is the title sponsor for the event, and the familiar Jordan basketball silhouette will be featured on the ring mat, Taffet said. Jones' own clothing line, Body Head, will also serve as a fight sponsor.

TVKO will take advantage of synergies within parent Time Warner Inc.'s entertainment stable to promote the event.

Home Box Office will create a two- to three-minute promo about the fight for its entertainment-news segments, Taffet said. Interviews with Jones will also appear during several upcoming HBO boxing events, including the network's Sept. 9 KO Nation live afternoon telecast, TVKO general manager Tammy Ross said.

An in-depth interview with Jones will be featured on CNN/SI the week of the fight, Taffet said.

Meanwhile, ESPN2 will feature a Jones interview during its Sept. 8 Friday Night Fights series. And and America Online Inc. will host live chats with Jones the week of the fight.

Jones will also be featured in additional interviews with Fox Sports Net and Fox's The Last Word with Jim Rome, Ross said. And boxing-oriented and will include stories and features on the event.

TVKO, mirroring its co-promotion with Universal Studios Pay-Per-View, will give away trips to the fight in 15 markets.

TVKO teamed up with Universal earlier this month to develop a sweepstakes around the fight and the studio's PPV release of The Hurricane. The grand-prize winner will receive a trip to the fight in New Orleans.

TVKO will produce a six-hour barker-channel countdown show for operators the day of the fight. In addition, the company will provide co-op marketing funds for local print, TV and radio spots in 50 select markets.

Taffet said operators' marketing efforts are particularly important since Jones is donating 50 cents of each buy to a world children's charity backed by former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.

In an effort to spur operator marketing support, the fight features a rare and easily obtainable 50-50 marketing-based rate card. Operators must run only 375 cross-channel spots and deploy just four marketing tactics to get one-half of the revenue. The event will retail for a suggested $34.95.

Taffet would not project how well the fight would perform, but said Jones is a popular fighter who hasn't been seen on the PPV stage in recent years. "This is an opportunity for operators to get the best fighter in the world on PPV for the first time in years," he added.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.