World Cup Adds Sponsors

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While sides continue their last-minute preparations for the 2006 World Cup, Soccer United Marketing’s advertising roster for the 64-match tournament from Germany is set.

With a combination of official sponsors from Fédération Internationale de Football Association, soccer’s world governing body, and other advertisers in the fold, SUM, which holds English-broadcast rights for the Cup in this country, is retaining a small number of spots for the matches that will appear on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.

“We’re in good shape. Soccer’s position in America has grown substantially since the last World Cup,” said SUM president Doug Quinn, noting that the company is holding 10% of its inventory in reserve, either for make-goods for audience under-delivery or for premium selling opportunities.

SUM believes those spots in pregame, postgame and halftime segments -- the matches run sans spots, save for logo wraps from FIFA official partners around the on-screen clock/scoreboard -- will fetch a premium. (The ads will also run in the 52 matches that will be simulcast live on broadband platform ESPN360; SUM and ESPN are splitting the available inventory on the repeats of all 64 matches on ESPN Classic.)

“This is going to be the highest-rated World Cup in the U.S.,” said Quinn, stopping short of actual projections. In addition to more favorable time differential from Germany -- six hours to the East Coast, as opposed to the many overnight matches from the 2002 Cup held in Japan/ Korea -- Quinn points to the $100 million Adidas, Nike, Gatorade and Budweiser are spending on World Cup and U.S. National team-themed campaigns in the 30 days leading up to the June 9-July 9 tourney, as well as the “300 GRPs” Disney’s networks have devoted to a U2-voiced promotional effort.

“It will be spectacular, if there is a good performance by the U.S,” said ESPN executive vice president of content John Skipper, who thinks the team will advance to the second round. He said though, that the competition, not the team, will drive Cup ratings, noting that even if it were to reach the final, the U.S. squad would only be involved in seven of the 64 matches.

In 2002, ESPN averaged a 1.11 household rating, good for 963,193 TV homes for 24 matches, while ESPN2 scored a 0.58 mark (489,690 homes) for 34 contests.

According to Quinn, the FIFA partners with prominent positions on the Disney networks telecasts: Adidas as presenting match sponsor; Hyundai as halftime report sponsor; T-Mobile with the “Man of the Match” vignette; and Budweiser, with “lots of inventory.”

Quinn said other advertisers include Subway, Apple, several studios and the Las Vegas Convention and Business Association, as the city has worked a deal with FIFA to become ‘the viewing destination for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.”

SUM officials said there are 30 commercial units within ABC’s 2.5-hour telecasts, including the half-hour pre-game segment, while the two-hour telecasts on ESPN and ESPN2 house 20. Cable operators receive 10 units in the broadcast telecasts and eight on cable.

Meanwhile, Univision -- which will show all 64 lives matches, followed by reruns on sister broadcast service Telefutura and cable cousin Galavision -- also appears to be in strong shape from an advertising perspective.

According to sources, FIFA partners that will be represented on the Univision family of networks’ telecasts include Gillette, Hyundai, Budweiser, T-Mobile and McDonald’s. Among the other advertisers on board are General Motors, Home Depot, Domino’s, Verizon Wireless, Lowe’s, Target and State Farm.

Univision declined to comment about its World Cup ad sales efforts.

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