TVKO, Budweiser Promote Lewis-Grant Bout Heavily

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TVKO's April 29 Lennox Lewis-Michael Grant pay-per-view fight should benefit from an unusually heavy promotional blitz this week as the network attempts to build last-minute momentum for the heavyweight bout.

The fight's unprecedented last-week promotional efforts will include rare media appearances by both fighters in the days leading up to the event, TVKO senior vice president of programming Mark Taffet said.

While most fighters are reluctant to participate in promotional events the week before a big fight, both champion Lewis and Grant will make several appearances this week.

Both fighters are expected to appear on Late Show with David Letterman this week, as well as on ESPN's Friday Night Fights telecast. Lewis and Grant are also expected to hold separate public workouts this week.

"We've never had this level of activity the week before the fight. Usually, fighters tend to stay away from the media days before an event," Taffet said.

Along with the fighter appearances, TVKO will promote the bout heavily through various media outlets. ESPN will telecast live remotes from Madison Square Garden all week, including live coverage of the weigh-in, Taffet said. And both ESPN2 and CNN/SI will provide live coverage of the final press conference days prior to the fight.

In addition, ESPN2 will run a 30-minute preview show April 27. And Fox Sports Net will run a separate, two-hour preview show on its owned-and-operated regional sports networks throughout the week.

Short vignettes on the fight are expected to run in this week's editions of TV Guide and Sports Illustrated, Taffet said. The network has also teamed up with In Demand to run ads in The New York Times, USA Today, The Ring and International Boxing Digest the week of the fight. Also, there are ads running in at least the top 25 markets, TVKO director of national marketing and promotion Michelle Rosen said.

The last-minute marketing push complements what has been already been an extensive media blitz for the fight. TVKO has mailed 3.2 million pieces hitting targeted boxing households.

As the event's title sponsor, Anheuser-Busch Inc.'s Budweiser Beer has provided extensive spot media for the fight "above and beyond what they've done in the past," Taffet said.

Budweiser will tag spots on Turner Network Television, TBS Superstation and NBC's National Basketball Association playoff telecasts, as well as on ESPN's National Hockey League playoff games and SportsCenter telecasts. "It gives us very high-profile awareness on a number of major sports events," Taffet said.

Home Box Office will run a two-minute entertainment-news piece on the making of TVKO's main-event commercial between its movies and original features throughout the week. The spot shows both fighters towering over the New York skyline.

The fight is also receiving heavy radio play on 90 One On One Sports Inc.-affiliated stations, as well as 84 CBS SportsLine-affiliated stations, according to Rosen.

The fighters also participated in live Internet chats on both ESPN.com and America Online Inc. "I'm optimistic that the America Online and ESPN chats will allow us to reach potential PPV users that we haven't reached before through traditional media," Taffet said.

Meanwhile, TVKO has saturated the New York marketplace with billboards and ad slicks promoting the fight. Outdoor billboards have been placed at the entrances of the Lincoln and Holland tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey, TVKO director and general manager Tammy Ross said.

TVKO has also teamed up with Cablevision Systems Corp. to create a number of marketing tie-ins for the fight with the MSO's New York retail and entertainment properties. Consumers visiting Cablevision's The Wiz electronic stores can enter a sweepstakes that awards tickets to the fight, Ross said.

Cablevision is also running rolling spots for the fight in its Clearview Cinema theaters prior to each film.

Taffet said early distribution agreements with networks such as In Demand allowed TVKO to put together such an extensive promotion.

While he wouldn't predict how the fight would perform, he said the lack of major PPV-boxing events in the first quarter should build interest. "Because of the dearth of boxing events so far, the operators have stepped up, and they are marketing the event," he said.

He also called the fight's $44.95 suggested retail price favorable for the consumer. "We thought this would be a great way to reach a wider audience and provide greater value to the fight after the [Evander] Holyfield-Lewis fights, which retailed at $49.95," Taffet said.

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