In the biggest marketing effort since its inaugural 1991
Evander Holyfield-George Foreman fight, TVKO has developed a massive multimedia campaign
for its March 13 Holyfield-Lennox Lewis bout.
With unprecedented sponsor and affiliate participation,
TVKO is hoping to continue the fast start to the 1999 pay-per-view boxing category with a
strong performance from the two heavyweight titleholders.
"You have two world-championship fighters fighting for
the most coveted title in the most famous arena [New York's Madison Square Garden]:
You couldn't deliver a better event for PPV," said Mark Taffet, senior vice
president, distribution, marketing and operations for TVKO.
"As such, the marketing plan represents the
highest-quality promotion that we've put in the marketplace," Taffet added.
TVKO has lined up a rare, three-pronged
national-sponsorship package for the first heavyweight-unification fight since 1992.
Anheuser-Busch Inc.'s Budweiser Beer is the major
sponsor of the event, delivering a heavy spot schedule of national broadcast-TV and cable
ads, said Dan York, vice president and general manager for TVKO.
Many of the spots will run in high-profile slots such as
CBS' "March Madness" NCAA college-basketball coverage and Turner Network
Television's National Basketball Association games.
In addition, MoneyGram, along with first-time sponsor
software producer Golden Ram, will sponsor the fight's time clock.
Microsoft Corp. will contribute by developing a Web site
dedicated to the bout, York said. Visitors to holyfieldlewis.com will be able to
download promotional pieces, view live coverage of the prefight and postfight conferences
and access other fight-related information.
"[Microsoft] will bring you the week's activities
leading up to the fight," Taffet said.
The bout will also have extensive coverage from the
national and regional cable-sports networks.
ESPN will televise the weigh-in live, as well as
originating its SportsCenter shows for the week from Madison Square Garden, York
said. The network will also produce a 30-minute fight-preview show to air the week of the
Meanwhile, ESPN2 will produce its March 12 Friday Night
Fights telecast from New York, including fight previews, Taffet added.
Fox Sports Net will also cover the weigh-in live, as well
as producing 30-minute and 90-minute shows reviewing Holyfield's and Lewis'
careers, York said. The regional sports networks were scheduled to air the two-hour block
simultaneously last night (Feb. 28), and they will continue to run the shows in the days
leading up to the fight.
Home Shopping Network will offer fight merchandise and
promote the PPV telecast during a show hosted by the event's promoter, Don King.
Along with Budweiser, TVKO will run its own fight ads on
broadcast and cable networks, mostly during news and sports events. In addition, TVKO will
place newspaper ads in daily papers in most major markets March 8 and 12.
Direct-broadcast satellite service U.S. Satellite
Broadcasting will purchase ads in USA Today promoting the fight. In addition, USSB
will distribute Holyfield-Lewis direct-mail pieces to its previous fight buyers, York
Another 2 million mail pieces will be distributed to
consumers through cable operators -- an unprecedented number for a TVKO fight, York added.
Viewer's Choice, in association with TVKO, will
develop an online-sweepstakes promotion that will net the winner free tickets to the
fight. Consumers have to answer a series of questions surrounding the bout to be eligible
for the prize. The contest will be offered on the PPV.com Web site, York said.
On the local level, several operators are developing
extensive campaigns to support the fight, particularly within the New York DMA. Time
Warner Cable's New York City Group and fitness chain New York Sports Club have teamed
up to offer a sweepstakes that will reward winners with free tickets to the event, York
Cablevision Systems Corp, which owns Madison Square Garden,
offered the fight free-of-charge to the first 1,000 customers purchasing two tickets to
the Feb. 20 Pernell Whitaker-Felix Trinidad welterweight-championship bout, which was also
held at the Garden, said Michael Bair, president, product management and marketing for
At press time, it was too early to determine how many
Cablevision subscribers purchased fight tickets.
Tele-Communications Inc. offered its subscribers a $5
discount off both the Lewis-Holyfield and the Feb. 13 Oscar De La Hoya-Ike Quartey fight
if both were ordered before Feb. 13, Taffet said.
While TVKO declined to predict how many buys the fight will
generate, industry observers are hoping that the event will reach the 900,000- to 1
The fight could push the industry's revenue gains for
the first three months of 1999 beyond the $100 million mark -- more than double last
year's $40 million take.
"It looks to be the biggest payday in a long time for
the industry, and that's reflected in our promotional efforts and in those of our
affiliates," York said.