ESPN Backs Outdoor Games with Humor

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Hoping to make its latest in-house franchise, "Great Outdoor Games," as big as all outdoors, ESPN plans to support the event with considerable multimedia marketing and promotion muscle.

The five promo spots, featuring offbeat humor, will run on ESPN and ESPN2 from now through July 21 and are themed, "The Next Big Thing?"

In one promo, a mother helps her young son practice log rolling in a bathtub; another shows a girl reeling in her little brother on a fishing line. In other spots, parents look on proudly as their son chops down a tree in the backyard; and a youngster, who while training his dog for the "Big Air Dog" competition, looks on in shock when the dog fails to resurface in the backyard pool.

ESPN senior vice president of marketing Lee Ann Daly said the promos will run ten times daily on ESPN, "a bit more" on ESPN2, with a few also due on ESPN Classic and ESPNews. Off-channel, she said, space will run in and .

Daly would not discuss dollars, but said promo support for Outdoor Games is "similar to the level for the Winter X Games." Some events may be shown on the Jumbotron sign in New York's Times Square, she added.

The campaign was created by Bayleff/Cronin, Atlanta, one of whose principals, Jerry Cronin, was creative director on "This is " while at Wieden & Kennedy, Daly said.

The inaugural Great Outdoor Games will be taped July 20 through 23 in Lake Placid, N.Y., and presented in primetime and weekend-afternoon dayparts on both networks July 27 through Aug. 4.

All told, ESPN and ESPN2 will devote 38 hours to 20 events, including 17 hours of original coverage.

There will be 200 competitors going for the $300,000 in prize money, vying in 20 events within four broad sports categories-fishing, timber, sporting dogs and target sports. Among the individual events are bass fishing, hot saw, tree topping, archery and rifle and shotgun target shooting. Canine events include Big Air and retrieval trials.

ESPN/ABC Sports president of ad sales and customer marketing Ed Erhardt said the coverage was sold to such clients as 1-800-COLLECT, Castrol Ltd., Lowe's Cos. Inc.'s Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse and The Pep Boys.

The sponsors' integrated packages encompass time and space on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN.com and ESPN Radio, as well as on-site signage, hospitality opportunities and ad space in special tie-in inserts in the August issues of and .

Erhardt described the Great Outdoor Games as "in the early stages of what we believe will be a successful programming franchise in the tradition of the X Games."

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