ESPN Sets Fantasy Football Contest


Sports fans don't have much control over which National Football League team comes out ahead each week, but one lucky ESPN viewer later this year will get to pick from three football fantasies.

The potential prizes — portrayed as NFL Prime Time
anchor Chris Berman's dream ways to watch football — include a trip to Hawaii to watch the Pro Bowl; a pre-game ESPN The Truck tailgate party at an NFL stadium; or a private party at New York's ESPN Zone sports bar and restaurant.

ESPN pitched the sweepstakes to its affiliates in an electronic-mail blast late last month, and is expected to follow up with a one-sheet mailing showing how the contest can drive local ad sales.

"We wanted to take advantage of a trend by offering consumers choices," ESPN vice president of affiliate ad sales and new business Jeff Siegel said. Being ready to fulfill any of the three prizes might pose a challenge, he said, but the opportunities outweigh the logistical difficulties.

"It has a much bigger feel to it than if we just allowed one prize," Siegel said. Affiliates and advertisers also appreciate that the prizes are something that consumers "can't go out and buy" on their own.


In addition to the national consumer prizes, ESPN will offer each local affiliate a 13-inch color television and an undisclosed number of Berman bobble head dolls that operators can use to entice local advertisers. In that way, every system and sponsor can award prizes, even though there's only one national grand prize.

ESPN doesn't disclose its promotional budgets. But the channels annual NFL promotion is the biggest for the total sports network and the cable industry as a whole, Siegel said — at least in terms of affiliate participation.

Last year, 454 affiliates took part, representing 61 million subscribers, he said. Siegel expects that number to be even higher this year.

To participate, local cable systems run tune-in spots telling viewers which local retailer they can visit to fill out an entry form. Typically, the football promotion attracts such local advertisers as car dealerships, furniture stores, fast-food joints and restaurants. Siegel said cable operators are not restricted from selling the sweepstakes to national advertisers.

The sweepstakes kicks off Oct. 1 and runs throughout the month, according to ESPN promotions manager for affiliate marketing Susan Mattia. The winner will be announced in November.