ESPN, AT&T Find Promo Success in the Mail

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ESPN — which is always looking for ways to leverage its media assets to help affiliates generate revenue — recently engaged in a successful direct-mail promotion with AT&T Broadband in Boston: the first such effort to star ESPN the Magazine.

Earlier this fall, the network had approached corporate-level Broadband executives with the idea of centering a direct-mail effort to drive digital cable around the magazine, said ESPN vice president of affiliate ad sales and new business Jeff Siegel.

"They suggested Boston as a good test market for this," he said. ESPN worked step by step with AT&T to put the appropriate pieces together.

A four-page wraparound, customized for the Boston system, was designed for ESPN's September issue. It incorporated the AT&T Broadband logo and outlined a multipart offer, including free installation and three complimentary issues of the magazine for new digital subscribers.

The inside cover featured the Beantown system's entire digital-cable lineup.

Since the campaign was envisioned as both an acquisition and a digital-upgrade effort, Siegel said the 29,000 consumers who received the mailing were a mix of both present basic subscribers and non-AT&T households.

The effort was "one of our most successful direct-mail campaigns" this year and "among the top four or five of the past couple of years, said AT&T basic video product manager Ned Costello.

Costello declined to offer specifics on the numbers of sign-ups and upgrades. But he said last week that the ESPN the Magazine
offer brought in "twice as many calls as our average direct-mail campaign. We'd like to do it again."

Costello said his system would also look into similar mailings with other cable networks that have magazine spin-offs, such as A&E Television Networks' Biography.

A number of other ESPN affiliates are also interested in mounting a similar campaign in their markets, Siegel said — including several AT&T Broadband systems that have been encouraged by the program's Boston-area success, he added.

Although there wasn't enough time in the Boston area, Siegel said ESPN would urge subsequent systems to incorporate a local ad-sales component as yet another means to bring in new revenue. One possibility would be including ads on the magazine wrap-around pages.

Los Angeles interconnect Adlink already has expressed its interest in the promotion, probably for the first quarter, according to Siegel.

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