BET Awards Gets Star Treatment

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Black Entertainment Television hopes that by increasing the tune-in marketing push for its second annual BET Awards, it can drive higher ratings for the event, which last year was the most-watched entertainment show in the network's history.

The ceremony, slated to feature stars such as Janet Jackson, airs live on Tuesday night (June 25).

Celebrity guests and hosts Cedric "The Entertainer" and Steve Harvey are portrayed as caricatures in light-hearted tune-in print ads. And a TV campaign called "Awards Show Etiquette" spoofs scenes from typical awards shows, such as emotional acceptance speeches and outrageous fashions.

The spots have been running during syndicated shows such as Moesha
and Showtime at the Apollo, as well as on cross-channel arrangements via participating cable systems and on DirecTV Inc.

BET has had a stronger local marketing presence this year than last, executive vice president of marketing and communications Kelli Lawson said. In addition to local radio in 45 markets, BET brought a promotional truck to beauty parlors and barbershops in 16 markets to promote its Ultimate Fan sweepstakes, which awarded a fan a trip to the awards show, Lawson said.

"Grass-roots marketing is a central component to the campaign," Lawson said. "The more touch points you have with consumers, the more awareness you create and the more viewers you get."

BET also promoted the sweepstakes online, through BET.com. And the network ran a separate contest, encouraging affiliates' customer service representatives to talk up the awards show.

Sister Viacom Inc. properties also helped promote the awards show. Viacom Outdoor advertised the event through outdoor and transit ads. Blockbuster Video ran TV spots on its in-store network for three weeks. And Paramount Amusement Parks printed tune-in information on its park maps for June, Lawson said.

Reebok is the title sponsor of the 2002 awards show. Cable affiliates had the opportunity to sell local sponsorships. In Los Angeles, for example, regional restaurant chain El Pollo Loco helped promote the BET Awards through point-of-purchase materials at each location.

Lawson valued BET's promotional efforts at $2.5 million, although some of its advertising was bartered. The network's goal is to score a 4.5 household rating, or a 30 among African-American viewers.

Last year's awards show scored a 4.26 Nielsen household rating, for 5.3 million viewers, and a 29.6 rating among African-American viewers.

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