New York -- Cable operators, looking to capitalize on a
rare heavyweight pay-per-view championship fight, have contributed co-op funds for spot
advertising for Showtime Event Television's June 6 Evander Holyfield-Henry Akinwande
While operators usually contribute very few marketing
dollars to fund local-spot advertising for major PPV events, the industry kicked in
between $350,000 and $400,000 for the Holyfield-Akinwande fight, SET said.
Combined with SET's contribution, the fight will
receive a strong $800,000 for local-market advertising.
With no major PPV events scheduled in the first half of
1998, and with none on the immediate horizon, operators are putting more marketing muscle
behind Holyfield-Akinwande, said Suzan Couch, senior marketing consultant for SET.
"It's an indication of the maturity of the
industry's marketing knowledge," Couch said. "This is a testimony of the
industry's willingness to share in the marketing to keep the big events coming."
Coaxial Cable in Columbus, Ohio, is taking the
Holyfield-Akinwande marketing plan a step further by asking viewers who they think will
win through a telephone call-in contest. Subscribers who choose the correct fighter will
receive a coupon worth $20 off the next PPV fight, said Gregg Graff, senior vice president
of programming, marketing and advertising for the system.
The satellite services will also aggressively market the
event. U.S. Satellite Broadcasting, in particular, is stepping up its efforts for the
fight, said Colleen Galloway, director of PPV for USSB. Along with running traditional
spots, USSB will place a large ad in USA Today. It has also cut the retail price to
$34.95 for early orders and remote-control buyers. Buys the day of the fight will retail
at $39.95, she said.
The service conducted in-house interviews with Holyfield,
as well as with undercard fighters Johnny Tapia and Christie Martin, for its own
barker-channel promotional piece.
USSB also conducted a major sweepstakes that netted the
winner free tickets for the fight.
Yet even with the increased promotion, operators are not
sure whether the event will match the 600,000 buys generated by November's
Holyfield-Michael Moorer fight. "Akinwande just doesn't have the same name
recognition as Moorer did," said one operator, who wished to remain anonymous.
"We're doing all that we can to boost awareness for the event."
Even Galloway admitted that it will be difficult for USSB
to match the 62,000 buys generated for Holyfield-Moorer.
"Everything is being done to maximize the amount of
buys for the fight, but it may fall short of Holyfield-Moorer," she said.
On the national level, Anheuser-Busch Co.'s Budweiser
Beer will provide sponsorship of the ring mat for the event, Couch said. Regionally,
sponsorship partners include the All-Star Cafe, Boston North End Pizza, Little
Caesar's Pizza, The Ring magazine, Pizza Hut, Subway sandwich stores, Sports
Cafe and Precision Tune.
Along with the spots, SET is offering operators a number of
national promotions to support the fight card. The network will run national spots for the
fight, as well as radio spots -- including heavy rotation on several Hispanic radio
networks, Couch said.
The network is offering a free, three-hour promotional feed
that operators can download and run on their barker channels. On June 5, SET will
distribute a 25-hour countdown show that will feature the official weigh-in, press
conferences and interviews.