Daily Buzz 12-20-10

Walmart Goes to College

  • The biggest retailer on Earth is preparing to try its hand at being big man on campus, readying a “Walmart on Campus” store at the University of Arkansas in what appears part of a series of tests of smaller-format stores for the giant retailer.
  • The 10,000-square-foot space under development replaces a university-run pharmacy that’s set to close Dec. 20. Walmart on Campus is expected to open by next month when classes resume at the university, though it will also be open for nonstudents. In a release, the university said patients have the option of moving their prescriptions to the Walmart on Campus pharmacy or another store.
  • Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon has talked of plans by the retailer to try a wide variety of “small-store” formats that will allow it to expand to places its supercenters — often around 200,000 square feet in the past or even around the 180,000 square feet in the current configuration — won’t fit or can’t get zoning. (www.adage.com)

ESPN App Advances Long-Delayed Interactive TV Push

  • Two years ago, ESPN announced plans to roll out a suite of interactive TV applications using EBIF, a nascent technology that was going to make clickable TV apps possible for the first time. Two years later, EBIF still hasn’t gotten off the ground.
  • But TVs that come with internet capabilities are offering a new way in: ESPN introduced ScoreCenter, an app for web-enabled Samsung TVs, to Samsung’s app store on Thursday.
  • The TV version of ScoreCenter — it shares the name of ESPN’s popular app for the iPhone and the iPad — lets viewers check scores and stats, customized to feature their favorite teams and leagues. The app can scroll across the top, bottom or side of the screen and may eventually be opened to advertisers for custom sponsorships.
  • Although ESPN is talking to other TV manufacturers about adding ScoreCenter to their web-enabled TVs, the network hasn’t completely scrapped its original plans for TV apps that don’t rely on set makers. They will require extensive technology bandwidth and cooperation from multiple TV operators to provide scale for potential sponsors, but could reach consumers who don’t have internet-connected TVs. (www.adage.com)

Bowling for Dollars

  • ESPN is the rich Uncle Pennybags of sports broadcasting, that dapper old swell from Monopoly who functions as the benign face of rapacious capitalism.
  • Crisp C-notes bursting from the pockets of its tuxedo jacket, the sports giant snatches up every sports property on which it alights, running the gamut from lowly Baltic Avenue (The Bassmasters) to Boardwalk (Monday Night Football) before the competition so much as passes “Go.”
  • Perhaps nothing illustrates ESPN’s rapacity quite like the college football bowl season. After blowing Fox Sports out of the water with a $500 million bid, ESPN won the rights for the Bowl Championship Series through 2014. In so doing, it now plays host to 33 of the 35 bowl games, including the Oregon-Auburn title match on Jan. 10. And here’s the corker: Despite the towering expenses associated with hosting the BCS games, ESPN could air the championship event commercial-free and still walk away fat and happy.
  • Advertising? Gravy. The real meat is in the brand hegemony, the way in which ESPN’s ownership of college football justifies its carriage fee. Here’s how the math works: In exchange for its broadcast feed and hi-def simulcast, Bristol charges cable and satellite operators an average of $4.40 a month per subscriber, according to SNL Kagan data. Multiply that by 99.8 million subscribers, over 12 months, and ESPN’s annual affiliate revenue haul works out to be $5.27 billion. To throw that into greater relief, note that ESPN’s subscriber revenue is roughly 43 percent of CBS Corp.’s market cap ($12.8 billion, as of Dec. 17). (www.brandweek.com)

NBCSports.com to Launch ProFootballTalk Live Series

  • NBCSports.com on Jan. 4 will launch ProFootballTalk Live with Mike Florio, a daily all-things-NFL Web series.
  • The ambitious series debuts just as the NFL playoffs heat up. But according to NBC officials, the plan is to continue the daily show well beyond the Superbowl—all year long, in fact.
  • The new show is part of an expanded, multiyear partnership between the NBC and ProFootballTalk.com. NBCSports.com will continue to host the blog, which was founded by Florio in 2001. And Florio, a former lawyer, will continue to make regular appearances on NBC’s Football Night in America. (www.adweek.com)

Targeted TV Ads Set for Takeoff

  • After years of promises and false starts, TV commercials targeted at individual homes may finally be ready for prime time.
  • DirecTV Group Inc. is planning the biggest rollout yet of “addressable ads,” allowing advertisers to reach close to 10 million homes with commercials tailored to each household. Dog owners, for instance, could see ads for dog food, not kitty litter, while families with children could be shown minivan spots. (www.wsj.com)

 New Strategy for ‘Tron’ DVD

  • Hide and seek has long been one of the Walt Disney Company’s favorite strategies when it comes to home entertainment.
  • To keep demand high, Disney rotates the availability of its animated films, keeping each title off the market for about seven years, then offering it for sale again.
  • Disney last released “Tron” on DVD in 2002, and it has since faded from the marketplace. Netflix lists the title as “availability date unknown.” On Amazon, the only new copies of the DVD are available from second-hand sellers, and cost a pretty penny: prices start at $125.
  • Meanwhile, dozens of unauthorized copies of “Tron” have surfaced on Web sites that facilitate the sharing of illegal copies of films and music, a sign of strong demand. (www.nytimes.com)

Acura finds sales, still seeks luxury identity

  • As Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW battle for luxury brand sales leadership this year, Acura has been flying below the radar — as usual.
  • Honda’s upscale division has had a solid year. Sales are up 24 percent over 2009, outpacing the gains made by luxury’s big 3. But the recession knocked Acura’s ambition to become a first-tier luxury player way off course.
  • To hold down costs, two years ago Honda executives in Japan halted plans for a V-8 engine and rear-wheel drive. Now Acura is still trying to figure out “who we are and who we want to be,” said Vicki Poponi, American Honda Motor Co.’s assistant vice president for product planning.
  • “The direction we were going became irrelevant within 60 days,” said Steve Center, chief marketing officer for American Honda, referring to the economic crash after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the fall of 2008. “We missed the window. We’ve had to reconnoiter. We had to go with our strengths.” (www.autonews.com)

    Uniqlo Makes Global Push

  • Looking to become the world’s leading clothing retailer, Japan’s Fast Retailing Co. plans to introduce its Uniqlo stores in the fast-growing Indian and Brazilian markets and to vastly expand its presence in China, where the number of stores are intended to leapfrog those in Japan by 2020.
  • So-called fast-fashion retailers such as Spain’s Inditex SA, which is the world’s largest clothing retailer and operates the Zara chain, and Sweden’s Hennes & Mauritz AB are quickly expanding their respective empires around the globe as consumers move away from higher-priced clothing in favor of less-expensive options. (www.wsj.com)

Paris Hilton launches Moto GP 125cc team

  • Hotel heiress Paris Hilton has taken co-ownership of the SuperMartXé VIP by Paris Hilton Moto GP 125cc World Championship team for the 2011 season.
  • The team will be backed by BQR and operated by Raúl Romero, with riders Sergio Gadea and Maverick Viñales racing in the final 125cc season before the class is replaced by Moto 3 in 2012. The team’s 125cc Aprilia RSA motorcycles will be decked out in a pink, white and blue livery – the colours of lead sponsor Supermartxé, a party promoter. (www.sportspromedia.com)

Wozniacki adds another personal endorsement

  • Caroline Wozniacki, ranked as the WTA Tour’s World No. 1, has been announced as the face of Turkish Airlines’ business class brand in a new multi-year deal.
  • Under terms of the deal, Wozniacki will represent the national carrier of Turkey in commercials and public relations activities for the next three years with a focus on Europe.
  • Although financial details were not released, according to Sports Business Journal (SBJ), Wozniacki received roughly US$6 million in 2010 from endorsements and appearance fees. And, based on a similar deal that the Polish born Danish tennis player has recently signed recently with Proactiv, Wozniacki’s new ageement with Turkish Airlines is estimated to be worth US$1 million annually. (www.sportspromedia.com)

THQ Contest Seeks To Engage UDraw Users

  • Already responsible for one of the hot toys of the season — having been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Extra and CNN — the makers of the uDraw Game Tablet (a sort of easel for the Wii) are looking to deepen their consumer engagement with an online contest.
  • “Part of what we’re doing is making sure that consumers who get uDraw have a chance to really experiment with it. So we want to do everything we can to encourage them to engage with it,” company representative John Singh tells Marketing Daily. “It’s less about enticing a consumer to buy than it is about giving them a real reason to get involved with the product.”
  • Through the online contest, users of the uDraw Game Tablet can submit winter-themed artwork created with the device. The contest is open to members of Club uDraw, which is free to join at WorldofDraw.com. The winner of the contest, determined by company executives and through an online vote, will win $500 worth of THQ video games for the Wii and will have their artwork used as the primary background on WorldofuDraw.com. (www.mediapost.com)

Heineken ‘Opens Your World’ with a New Global Tagline

  • While its rivals Guinness and Grolsch are releasing mini projects inspired by the upcoming Christmas celebrations, Heineken has made it big by introducing a campaign featuring a new global tagline. With a bunch of innovations launched this year to be rolled out heavily in 2011, the brand decided to change its ‘Meet you there’ motto highlighted in a series of hilarious adverts including the hilarious ‘Walk-in fridge’ spots for a more intriguing one, calling to ‘Open your world’.
  • The campaign, which is now rolling out in Europe, features a series of spots, linked to the major ad in the set, dubbed ‘Entrance’. The leading promotional video showcases a character, an elegant man with perfect communicational skills, who comes to a grandiose party and meets a lot of guests before he finally grabs the desirable green bottle. Despite the guy is offered Heineken right after he shows up at the party, he is not rushing to have it in his hand, and first wants to say hello to others (in a different way each time). The rest of the characters—Jackie Chan-like eastern martial artist, pro basketball players and two servants-turned-pianists Siegfried and Jean-Pierre—also appear in the following adverts. (www.popsop.com)

Gap Offered Discounts through Christmas Inspired ProjectReindeer

  • Gap launched a new project to deliver more discounts to its fans ahead of Christmas through a holiday-themed ‘race’ of reindeer. For five days, the brand has been inviting its fans to visit the www.projectreindeer.com page and participate in the competition of the North Pole animals for a chance to pay less at the participating Gap stores across the U.S. The idea behind the project is simple: to save a Gap venue, you had to say the name of the winner of the every day’s challenge and get a discount he or she carries. The competition, which has been running December 15-19, is now over. 
  • Every deer has a deal. Every day has a winner. Tweet to boost your favorite,” says the brand on the website of the project. The participants of ProjectReindeer were invited to track the movements of the eight GPS-enabled reindeer on a pasture to pay less for particular items—with kind of discount it would be depended on the horned contestants since each of them represented one deal. For instance, thanks to Chloe, Gap stores customers could get any accessories for just $5, Zoe brought 40% off all women’s items and so on. To get a discount, consumers were supposed to some up to the cashier and say “[The name of the today’s winner]+free.” Still, things were not always going smoothly. On the project’s page on Facebook some people are complaining that sometimes shopping assistances know nothing about the project and so the promotional fun turns into bare arguments. (www.popsop.com)

GE partnership caps productive year for PGA Tour

  • General Electric will become a PGA Tour official partner, capping a flurry of sponsorship activity for the tour in the final months of 2010.
  • With the GE deal expected to be in place for the start of the 2011 season, the PGA Tour ends the year with plenty of momentum. In all, the tour will see a 5 percent increase in sponsorship revenue in 2010 over 2009, said Tom Wade, the tour’s chief marketer.
  • “Given the environment that we’re in, it’s been an outstanding year,” Wade said.
  • In the last few months, the tour has locked down a number of important deals. It finalized GE, signed Cadillac to title-sponsor the WGC event at Doral, brought back FedEx as title sponsor of the St. Jude in Memphis, replaced official airline Delta with United/Continental, renewed Sony for the tournament in Honolulu, brought on Hyundai as title sponsor of the season-opening event in Maui, added Rolex as a Presidents Cup sponsor, and renewed the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. Earlier in the fall, Nationwide became the Memorial’s presenting sponsor, replacing Morgan Stanley, and Wyndham renewed for the Greeensboro tournament. (www.sportsbusinessjournal.com)

NBA unwrapping new ad campaign Dec. 25

  • The NBA will roll out a new advertising campaign during the league’s Christmas Day broadcasts on ABC and ESPN, with five new spots tied to the league’s vaunted “Where Amazing Happens” branding effort.
  • The campaign, tagged “Encouragement,” features 30-second spots showcasing some of the league’s top stars: Amar’e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets, Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
  • The Stoudemire and Durant spots will debut during the NBA’s five Christmas Day broadcasts, which include a doubleheader on ABC of Orlando against Boston followed by Miami against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Christmas Day games on ESPN have Chicago playing New York, Denver against Oklahoma City, and Portland against Golden State.
  • The ads are documentary-style commercials, with actual footage from each player’s past along with an on-screen actor commenting on the player’s current NBA careers. For example, the Stoudemire commercial shows footage of the now-Knicks star shooting in a gym as a 17-year-old while the actor discusses Stoudemire’s success as an NBA player. (www.sportsbusinessjournal.com)
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