ESPN, Affiliates Score with Student 'Challenge'

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ESPN's second annual "SportsFigures
Challenge" outreach campaign drew significantly more high school students and affiliates than a year ago — no doubt due to a big increase in the number of prizes.

While there was just one winner of a college scholarship last year, ESPN and its affiliates this year presented nine students with $10,000 college scholarships and their schools with $1,000 worth of media equipment each.

The nine affiliates with scholarship-winning seniors were: AT&T Broadband in San Lorenzo, Calif.; Adelphia Communications Corp., Simi Valley, Calif.; Armstrong Cable Co., Grove City, Pa.; Charter Communications Inc., Pinckney, Mich.; Comcast Corp., Lansdale, Pa.; Cox Communications Inc., Edmond, Okla.; Insight Communications Co., Lexington, Ky.; Mediacom Communications Corp., Angola, Ind., and Time Warner Communications, Rochester, N.Y.

In all, 4,500 students from 2,000 schools took a written test and more than 200 affiliates were involved in the challenge, with most major MSOs represented, according to ESPN vice president of affiliate marketing E.J. Conlin. Those figures were up significantly from a year ago.

The scholarships, school awards and other aspects, including prizes, pushed ESPN's total investment in the challenge well beyond $100,000, Conlin said.

SportsFigures, an original, half-hour weekly program produced for Cable in the Classroom by ESPN and ESPN2 since 1995, features star athletes, such as Derek Jeter and Tiger Woods, who use sports to explain math and physics concepts to students.

The challenge lets affiliates call attention to community educational efforts, such as wiring schools to the Internet and supplying educators with teaching materials.

Last fall, ESPN shipped to affiliates and schools kits containing taggable promo spots, ad slicks and posters the schools could display to promote the challenge.

Semifinalists, culled from students who passed a written test based on 10 sports-related word problems, received ESPN merchandise. They then wrote 250-word essays describing a sport of their own creation. Nine winning essayists were selected this spring.

Winning high-school seniors participated in local "newsmaker" presentations. At Armstrong Cable, marketing coordinator Joan Kocan said its winner, Lyndsi Hughes, got her scholarship check during a ceremony at her school, with a state senator and other legislators in attendance. That ceremony was taped for Armstrong's local-origination channel, which ran it several times, and footage was incorporated into a congratulatory promo spot.

Kocan said she looked forward to staging the challenge again, and said she'd "love to promote it even more next year."

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