HBO Sports is replacing its old, worn-out marketing gloves with shiny, new media leather as it looks to pound out pay-per-view buys for its May 2 Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton PPV boxing event.
Gone are the traditional 30-minute fight preview shows airing on syndicated television stations and regional sports networks, replaced by video-rich Web site ad banners that offer fight video to consumers with just a wave of a computer mouse. Traditional newspaper fight ads have also been replaced by online ads on newspaper Web sites.
Amid a struggling economy, HBO officials say it's imperative that it mines the new media space to reach an increasingly Web-centric, target audience of 18-54 male viewers.
"We're basically taking traditional media that used to be the cornerstone of our plans and we've brought it into 2009 with a focus on where people are getting their news and information,"said Tammy Ross, HBO Sports vice president and general manager.
With a suggested retail of $49.95, the Pacquaio-Hatton fight, which is also benefiting from the programmer's latest installment of informational/promotional series 24/7, marks the first major PPV event for HBO Sports in 2009. By this time last year, the network had already offered three PPV events.
But with the economy in flux, Ross said the network is conserving its resources and only bringing the most appealing fights to boxing's biggest stage in 2009.
"We're in a very strange place. We certainly didn't feel great about bringing a lot of PPV shows in a really bad economy," Ross said. "We want to make the right shows available on PPV, and certainly Pacquiao-Hatton is the right show."
As part of its Pacquiao-Hatton campaign, the network has unveiled a new ad banner featuring videos that are currently up and running on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com. Once a user moves his cursor over it, the ad expands and a video promotion for the fight plays.
"What we've done is taken a lot of video content that we would typically put out on networks and embedded into the rich media banner," she said. "You're actually engaging the consumer while getting your video content out."
Further, on Friday (May 1), HBO will swap out the video promo in its online ad banners for live video coverage of the fighters' weigh-in. DirecTV's 101 channel and various cable operator Web sites will also make the weigh-in available live.
"It's really much more cutting-edge, targeted and focused on what we think people will engage on to buy into this," she said.
ESPN, Univision and USA Today's Web sites are currently offering the rich media banner. She said MSOs such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable are working with HBO to purchase similar rich media ads on local newspaper Web sites to promote the fight.
While sports fans still watch a significant amount of television, HBO believes the interactive ad banners will reach more of the network's core male audience, particularly those on the younger end of the spectrum.
"It's a strong initiative for affiliates, as well as a great outlet for content," she said. "We're not abandoning anything; we're just shifting our resources because we need to be in realistic places."
Also as part of the campaign, the network will place radio buys on sports-based SiriusXM satellite shows. as well as the Univision Radio Network, which she says remains a viable outlet to reach Hispanic sports fans.
"We know that our Hispanic audience is a boxing audience," she said. "Latinos follow the sport regardless of whether the headline fighter has a Latino following, so we're certainly not abandoning that all-important marketing tactic.
Ross would not venture a PPV buy and revenue prediction for the fight, but said that both operators and sports fans are hungry for a good and exciting PPV event.
"The operators that we've been working with are very excited about being able to bring a big show to the market," she said."Our mantra is to put the best fights on PPV, and I think we're being very responsible with everybody's resources and our dollars on the marketing side."