Travel, Volkswagen Hit Road for Sweeps

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Travel Channel said last week that its upcoming "The Great American Road Trip" promotion will be its "most extensive" since it joined the Discovery Communications Inc. family in December 1997.

The network signed Volkswagen of America Inc. as the national sponsor of the sweepstakes. The grand prize is a one-week trip to the winner's destination choice, including a fully stocked recreational vehicle-supplied by the Go RVing Coalition-and return airfare.

Slated to run from July into mid-November, the sweepstakes "will drive consumers to affiliates' Web sites, not ours," Discovery Networks U.S. senior vice president of marketing and distribution strategy Lori McFarling said. The goal is to bolster systems' cable-modem businesses, she added.

The integrated grassroots promotion will give operators co-branding opportunities and "help them to raise [consumer] awareness for their ancillary businesses." It should also lift Travel's brand awareness, McFarling said.

Volkswagen will use point-of-sale displays at its dealerships to promote the sweepstakes, McFarling said.

For the local ad-sales component, VW auto dealerships will "definitely" be pitched to tie-in, McFarling said. Among other categories to be targeted: travel/ tourism, books, computers and software and sporting goods.

Volkswagen will also support the second leg of the promotion, an 18-city mall tour, in which consumers can enter "The Great American Road Trip Talent Search."

Volkswagen was involved in Travel Channel's selection of the mall-tour markets, McFarling noted.

Affiliates will get signage and cross-channel spots designed to drive traffic to the talent search. After each search, systems will get 30-second Travel-produced interstitial spots featuring the best audition.

At tour's end, consumers will be able to vote on the Discovery.com Web site for one of the top 18 talent prospects.

Travel conducted another mall tour, "Adventure Zone," in seven markets in March and April. The network called that "hugely successful."

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