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  • AVP AIMS TO EXPAND FAN BASE FROM SUBCULTURE TO MAINSTREAM

         As the AVP begins its Miller Lite Tour schedule and looks
    toward the '96 Summer Games, beach volleyball faces the dual
    challenge of maintaining its core audience while trying to build
    on its early success and become a prominent player in the
    international sports market.  THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY recently
    spoke with AVP President Jon Stevenson about the state of the
    Tour and the job ahead.
         GROWING PAINS?  Stevenson responded to some critics'
    assessments that the sport has "peaked."  Noting that exposure on
    NBC has been critical to the success of the Tour and will help
    the sport grow, Stevenson said that ratings for the "AVP on NBC"
    may have flattened last year because of weaker lead-in
    programming than in previous years.  Last year on NBC, the Tour's
    10 events pulled down an 2.0 rating and a 6 share.  This season,
    NBC has scheduled the AVP eight times from June to September,
    with other events on Prime and ESPN.  Stevenson:  "We established
    a solid rating to be able to sell the sport.  One of the keys to
    our growth strategy has been to establish the solid network
    partnership, and I think we have done that."  Stevenson said they
    now have to expand the audience from their "subcultural" niche
    with roots in Southern CA, to a more broadbased core.
         THE PLAN:  To be successful, the AVP has a "several- pronged
    attack" based on NBC's quality production, with the aim of
    continuing to create brand recognition in different markets and
    build identity for the top players.  AVP will also employ a
    grass-roots program, "Spike-it-Up," similar to the NBA's "Hoop-
    it-Up" program -- a partnership between NBC Sports and Streetball
    Partners.  New sponsor Fila will have a presence in "Spike-It-
    Up."  Stevenson:  "Right now we are at such a critical time where
    if we don't do the right things right now, our hard work could be
    for not."
         NEW SPONSORS:  In addition to Fila, the AVP Tour has gained
    new support from Kodak and Foot Action, all of which have signed
    on as sponsors of the summer schedule.  Foot Action signed a deal
    for one season, and has partnered with Fila to produce tour-
    specific apparel.  Foot Action is also developing a TV campaign
    for NBC events and will work on an in-store promotion with both
    the AVP and Fila.  Rod Rens, Special Events Coordinator at Foot
    Action USA, said they hope the deal will bring in returns for the
    spring, summer and fall.  Rens:  "Young males are our strongest
    sector, and we are happy that is the AVP's demographic, but we
    also feel that the sport has a far reaching appeal to other fans.
    Beach volleyball is an alternative to major league sports."  Fila
    leverages their AVP sponsorship through their Vendor Support
    Marketing Program.  Howe Burch, Fila's VP of Advertising and
    Communications, calls the AVP an emerging sport with strong
    ratings reaching an audience Fila wants to penetrate.  Burch:
    "We have always had a strong appeal among the tennis crowd with
    our apparel, and strong in the inner cities with our shoes.  This
    could capture a young suburban audience."  Burch also said their
    sponsorship is an opportunity to be affiliated with one of the
    AVP's marquee players -- Kent Steffes.
         STAR APPEAL:  Fila is planning an ad campaign around Steffes
    to run during NBC's coverage, despite Steffes' recent shoulder
    injury, which will have him out for an indefinite period of time.
    Burch said Steffes' injury is "not something we are happy about,
    but it won't change our plans with him or the AVP.  He may be
    back by the time of NBC telecasts, and he is such a presence on
    the Tour."  Asked about the loss of Steffes, Stevenson said, "No
    one player is going to spell the ultimate success or the ultimate
    doom of the sport." But he acknowledged the impact, noting that
    Steffes was one of the sport's ambassadors.  Stevenson said the
    AVP is "trying to build an awareness of the stars of our sport,
    and the personalities of our sport by building credibility for
    the sport as a whole. ... We want to exemplify the fact that AVP
    players are as good at what they do as any athlete in any sport."
         BEACH VOLLEYBALL GOES OLYMPIC:  In Atlanta in '96, beach
    volleyball will make its debut as a medal sport.  While the
    Olympics could serve as a great opportunity for the sport,
    Stevenson is critical of the player selection process, noting
    that the AVP "has no say in any phase of the Olympic process,
    much less how the U.S. athletes are picked."  The FIVB -- the
    sport's international governing body which sets the standards for
    Olympic qualification -- has its own 18-event summer schedule.
    Stevenson charges, "The Olympic Games are being used to leverage
    the AVP players to leave their tour."  Stevenson points to the
    No. 1 team of Steffes-Karch Kiraly, who were faced with playing
    in FIVB special events, which would make it easier to qualify for
    '96, or staying on the AVP Tour.  AVP players have a better
    chance to qualify as one of the three U.S. teams in Atlanta by
    playing in the FIVB events.  Still, Stevenson said he would not
    stand in the way of his players' Olympic opportunity.  Stevenson:
    "That is something early on we said we weren't going to do.  So
    for Kent and Karch, the policy is 'go for it.'"  According to
    Stevenson, Steffes' injury will likely force the top pairing to
    wait and qualify for '96 through Olympic trial events next year
    (THE DAILY).
    

    Print | Tags: Eastman Kodak, ESPN, Fila USA, NBA, NBC, People and Pop Culture, Walt Disney
  • NAMES IN THE NEWS

         ROBIN BRENDLE has been named Associate Dir of Communications
    at CBS Sports (USA TODAY, 4/21)...ALEX ENGLISH, Director of
    Player Programs for the NBPA, is profiled in the Bucks' FULL
    COURT PRESS (Full Court Press, 4/95).  Also from the NBPA, BOBBY
    DANDRIDGE, head of the union's division that assists with college
    completion and career counseling, is interviewed in USA TODAY
    (USA TODAY, 4/21)....Knicks Coach PAT RILEY has been named to the
    International Best Dressed List Fashion Hall of Fame (N.Y. POST,
    4/21)....JOHN MCENROE played guitar last night at Rebar in New
    York City.  During a song he wrote on tennis, McEnroe sang such
    lines as "Tennis sucks. ... You guys are the pits ... You cannot
    be serious" (N.Y. POST, 4/21).
    

    Print | Tags: Cablevision, CBS, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, People and Pop Culture, Viacom
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