ESPN the Truck Drives Local Ad Sales

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As ESPN's pro-football coverage kicked off, the final gun sounded on a successful first year for the network's National Football League truck tour.

The promotion earned affiliates $750,000 in tie-in local advertising sales across 42 markets, according to vice president of affiliate ad sales and new business Jeff Siegel.

In the coming year, Siegel said the truck would again travel to more than 40 locales. As before, "ESPN will try to share the wealth" by bringing in as many MSOs as possible in those areas, he said.

The 18-wheeler — designated as "ESPN the Truck" — has also been used as an affiliate-marketing tool. In that capacity, the 73-footer has helped operators promote such products and services as digital cable and cable modems, although Siegel said ESPN does not yet have a detailed breakout on resultant sales.

On the affiliate-marketing end, ESPN supplies the participating operators with taggable cable and radio spots, ad slicks and other materials.

It takes about a day to set up the truck and an accompanying tent. That's down from two days when the trek first began, noted Siegel. At each locale, ESPN puts up affiliate and advertiser signage and allows its sponsors to offer sample products.

Upon boarding the truck, consumers can have their photo taken for a mock ESPN the Magazine
cover, videotape a segment as a SportsCenter
anchor, hear candid interviews with the network's on-air talent and win instant prizes, a spokeswoman said.

Some of the markets on the truck's itinerary in the past year have been Bakersfield, Calif.; Bedford, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; and Philadelphia. That last visit came during ESPN's Summer X Games and featured Comcast Corp. as the affiliate partner, Siegel said.

Adelphia Media Services brought the ESPN truck to Bedford to promote its newly launched digital-cable service. On the sponsorship side, Adelphia broke Mercedes Benz Dealers of Cleveland as an account and booked the truck at what's become known as "the Bedford Automile." Adelphia senior account executive John Toomey said the Mercedes dealer bought a $158,000 contract for April through December.

Time Warner Cable showed the truck off at its Bakersfield office and at the Motor City Auto Center, which also bought a sponsorship, according to local sales manager Gordon Galindo. He's looking at bringing the truck back in 2002 as a lure for non-advertisers.

In Des Moines, Mediacom — which bought the former AT&T Broadband system last July — hosted a two-day event with a local radio link-up. On Media, its ad-sales arm, sold Crescent Chevrolet and Waters Edge Marine. The cosponsors spent a combined $15,000 on the promotion, according to On Media senior account executive Leslie Malcolm.

The vehicle is sponsored by the NFL, so "it's wide open to any advertiser," Siegel noted. The two top ad categories so far have been automotive and retailers, he said, noting that those offer high-traffic sites.

The league also uses the truck as a promotional tool in roughly 10 additional markets, where ESPN and its affiliates also can tie in, he added.

ESPN executives have been discussing the possibility of rolling a second truck, which would depend on its landing a national sponsor, according to Siegel.

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