ESPN Deportes is looking to kick up promotional payouts a notch or 10 — or 10 million.
While National Football League and Major League Baseball promos have delivered $1 million to winners and HGTV annually awards a “Dream House” of the same value, ESPN Deportes is raising the bar to $10 million with its “Fútball a Football” contest, which kicks off today.
“This is by far the largest promotion prize I can remember on the affiliate side in my 23 years in cable,” said Robyn Remick, vice president of affiliate marketing Disney and ESPN Media Networks. “It’s something I think our viewers and sports fans are going to be very excited about.”
The multifaceted, affiliate-tied promotion — which reflects the network’s programming that offers Latino-targeted sports offerings and the best of Anglo athletics, including MLB and NFL action — will afford a randomly selected sweepstakes entrant the opportunity to land a soccer ball in an unguarded goal from 50 yards out and then turn around and split the uprights from 40 yards. The chance will come at Texas Stadium during ESPN’s coverage of the Jan. 2 NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams.
If successful, the kicker will pocket a cool $10 million.
GROWTH THE TARGET
The 19-month-old ESPN Deportes, which counts just under 1 million subscribers, also wants to reap dividends from the campaign by building buzz and driving acquisition in the Spanish-language sports arena, where it trails Fox Sports en Español and soccer-centric Gol TV in the race to connect with the nation’s 10.7 million Latino TV households.
“Our goal is to get people involved, and create attention for ESPN Deportes,” Remick said. “This will help us drive distribution with affiliate partners and show the network’s value to other distributors.”
The campaign’s bow coincides with this week’s debut of ESPN Deportes La Revista. The Spanish-language monthly title will be joined in early September by the sign-on of ESPN Deportes Radio.
General manager Lino Garcia said ESPN Deportes varied vehicles are unmatched in the sector. “With the TV network, radio, the magazine, online and wireless, we can reach Latino sports fans everywhere,” he said. “The cross-promotional platforms will also work for our affiliates.”
ESPN Deportes also is planning an experiential tour in support of Fútball a Football. Beginning in Sacramento on July 26, the Fútball a Football tour will trek to 129 markets through mid-November, according to Remick.
Promotion-branded trucks will roll to varied venues like malls, parks and expos over multiple days within these DMAs, setting up a 400-square-foot marketing bivouac where visitors will be greeted with premiums like caps and T-shirts and find TV monitors looping Deportes soccer, baseball and boxing fare.
A phone bank will facilitate network sign ups — new customers will receive a free three-month trial of the magazine as an acquisition inducement — or enable them to implore their local MSO to add Deportes.
Remick said affiliate partners — Cox Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and RCN Corp. are on board in select markets — will also have a booth presence at the experiential tour to tout their array of services. Affiliates will also be tagged in radio ads trumpeting the tour’s arrival.
Attendees can register on site for the sweepstakes, which will also yield trips to ESPN’s Oct. 2 NFL game between the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City, or enter through ESPNDeportes.com. Those who sign up for the service are automatically eligible, according to Remick.
Cesar Cruz, director of multi-cultural marketing for Cox, called the promotion “a cool thing. This is something that is close to the community with the soccer event and the $10 million [prize] should build excitement. This is an example of helping to spark interest in an Hispanic product.”
Ads begin today in USA Today, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer. Residents of the City of Brotherly Love and those in town for the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Summit will likely witness promotion billboards, mobile ad trucks circling the convention center, and 50 cabs, replete with taxi-top messages and drivers adorned in attendant promotion garb. Cabbies will hand out some 50,000 branded receipts.
Radio support will drive the promo in seven other markets.
A spokeswoman notes on-air promotion is scheduled to being next week on Deportes. The sports giant is still finalizing plans to thread messages about the promotion on other ESPN networks and properties later this fall and winter.
Also in the works: a search for instructors to assist the sweepstakes winner prepare for his or her big moment. That could come in the form of the Cowboys placekicker and a player from Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas club. There are booby prizes too: $25,000 for either kick; $10,000 if they both fail.
Remick said ESPN Deportes is insured should it have to award the eight-figure prize. At the 2004, MLB All-Star Game in Houston, Taco Bell granted $1 million when a man threw five pitches through a faux strike zone within 30 seconds. Participants have also scored a couple of times in recent years with “The Hershey Million Dollar Kick,” according to an NFL spokesman.
“We really hope someone makes it,” said Remick. ”Our insurance company places the odds at a one in ten chance.” Although one can ponder that handicapping, others question the promotion’s timing.
“I can understand wanting to make a big consumer splash,” said one sports marketing executive. “At this point, they don’t have the distribution base to realize all the benefits of driving a major sweepstakes initiative.”
Buttressing the base, though, is exactly the point, according to Garcia. He said ESPN Deportes has a presence in eight of the top 10 Hispanic markets and deals with six of the top 10 distributors — Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable, DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network remain holdouts. Currently in front of 11 million homes, Garcia expects another pact soon.
“Grassroots marketing is very important in the Latino community. They will be able to touch and feel our product,” he said. “Fútball a Football is something that will generate awareness and is a great acquisition tool for our affiliates. We definitely expect to see more rollouts.”
He said that ESPN Deportes La Revista will place more emphasis on soccer and boxing, athletics favored more by Hispanics, than its Anglo biweekly counterpart.
The radio network could launch with as many as 20 affiliates, said Garcia.
These gambits can also be viewed as a means of playing catch-up for the service.
Fox Sports en Espanol, currently in its 10th year, has 7.5 million subscribers, including 3.5 million Hispanic households. General manager David Sternberg said the service has added 500,000 Hispanic households since last July. He added that Fox Sports en Español and Galavisión are the only Nielsen Media Research-rated Latino cable networks and that the sports service’s audience features the highest concentration of male viewers of any U.S. Spanish-language net.
“We can continue to make distributions strides toward our goal of being in all Hispanic homes,” said Sternberg, who noted that the net en Español has carriage deals with Dish and DirecTV, and is available on expanded basic on systems in Los Angeles and El Paso and Arlington, Texas; digital basic; Latino packages; and sports tiers.
Elsewhere, Soccer proponent Gol TV is available in Spanish- and English-language feeds and is positioned on Latino and sports tiers. Eileen Montalvo, executive vice president of sales and marketing, said Gol has just short of 8 million subs through deals with Adelphia Communications Corp., Comcast, Cablevision, RCN, Dish and DirecTV, including 2.2 million Hispanic households.
GOL GETS BECKHAM
Complementing its match presentation, highlighted by its coverage of Spain’s La Liga, Gol TV recently bolstered its instruction programming by adding Really Bend it like Beckham, featuring tips from star David Beckham. Montalvo said the network is closing in on the renewal of a multiyear pact for Series A, Italy’s top league.
Looking ahead, the competition for Spanish-language sports carriage will intensify.
'They haven’t really pushed [ESPN Deportes] much so far,” said the sports marketing executive. “When they want to get something done they’ve really used their leverage like they did in pushing ESPN2, ESPNews and Classic.”
That may change in the months ahead. Walt Disney Co. officials, leveraging retransmission-consent leverage for ABC stations, are seeking launchs for a number of services, including Deportes.