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SPONSORS NO LONGER DEFYING GRAVITY: GAMES A BOOST TO NBC?
Published October 13, 1999
Around 200,000 spectators attended NBC's inaugural Gravity Games in RI, and brands such as Mountain Dew, Doritos, Toyota, Hasbro Interactive, the U.S. Marines, Ultimate Speed Stick and Unionbay "ponied up to" $3M apiece for "top-tier, multimedia sponsorship packages" around the event, according to Laura Petrecca of AD AGE, who examines the alternative sports festival. IEG Sponsorship Report revealed that sponsorship revenue for extreme sports reached $135M last year, up from $24M in '93, and Petrecca writes the alternative sports festivals are "a cultural force clearly ready to burst into the mainstream." By creating the Gravity Games, NBC's "hope was to replicate the success ESPN has had with its X-Games," which resulted this year in ESPN pulling in $22M from 15 "top-tier sponsors." NBC Sports Ventures VP/Business Development Kevin Monaghan: "We had been monitoring what ESPN was doing and were envious." In development, NBC recruited a dozen "interns" to "compile information on the market for extreme sports, even if it meant spying on ESPN. Most of the interns made calls under the guise of doing research for a school project." Extreme athlete Biker Sherlock later become a "project consultant." NBC then joined with Emap/Petersen's premerger Petersen unit, which was creating its own sports festival. The joint effort was seen as a "marketer's dream," as NBC provided the production capabilities and distribution platform, while Petersen "added credibility within the extreme sports market." The two established a revenue sharing deal under which Petersen "assumed more risk." Petersen CEO James Dunning "estimates" the Games will add about $10M a year in profits to Emap/Petersen (AD AGE, 10/11 issue). READ THE PROMO, BOB: NBC's Bob Costas, plugging the Gravity Games during the third inning of last night's Mets- Braves Game One telecast: "This weekend, all eyes will be focused on the vert ramp, as skateboarding legend Tony Hawk takes his game to the half pipe and goes for Gravity Gold in the skate-vert finals. That sounds very exciting, although I have absolutely no idea what I just read" (NBC, 10/12).