SBD/Issue 218/Events & Attractions

ESPN Says It's Not Concerned About Light Turnout For X Games

ESPN Assistant Dir for Marketing & Communication Amy Lupo said that "about 15,000 people attended skateboard and street luge events" this past weekend at the ESPN X Games in Philadelphia, which marked the start of this year's event, according to Nathan Gorenstein of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. As many fans waited "in pouring rain for the free events," the "modest turnout for the first few days of the seventh annual X Games did not concern ESPN." Lupo: "We were immensely pleased with the crowd." Gorenstein reports ESPN officials "expect turnout to spike when the games go indoors" at the First Union Center Friday (INQUIRER, 8/14).

X-CELLENT MARKETING: USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy notes that for this year's X Games, ESPN has "assembled a record number of corporate sponsors, reading like a laundry list of marketers trying to reach a youth audience: Mountain Dew, the Marine Corps, Taco Bell, Motorola, AT&T and Pontiac." First-time sponsors include Hershey's Chocolate Milk, PlayStation 2, Universal Pictures and the "aptly named" Right Guard Xtreme. McCarthy reports Mountain Dew has "outfitted a New York subway car to be a hangout for X Games attendees," and that the Marine Corps is spending $560,000 to be an X Games sponsor. Meanwhile, ESPN is "handing out free X Games CDs, featuring cutting-edge acts such as Wu-Tang Clan, on street corners to build buzz about the event" (USA TODAY, 8/14). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Monica Hogan reports ESPN and Comcast have "spent millions of dollars — and have planned for many months — to attract what they see as a desirable and hard-to-reach audience: 12-to-24-year-old males." ESPN Senior VP/Marketing Lee Ann Daly said that "reaching the type of young, active athlete most likely to be interested in the X Games poses a challenge because they're likely to be outdoors 'doing stuff.' ... To reach extreme-sports fans, ESPN is placing its message in spots where they're likely to hang out, such as skateboard parks, hard-rock music tours or convenience stores." Daly: "We need to be where the fans are, wherever sports are played or discussed or debated." Hogan adds while Comcast "doesn't look at the event as a revenue generator, it does hope to sell some products." Comcast's tent at First Union Center will "showcase digital cable, high-speed Internet access and video-on-demand" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 8/13).

X's & O's: In Philadelphia, Jennifer Weiner year's X Games reached "more than a quarter of the nation's roughly 100 million" TV HHs. About 27.8 million HHs tuned in to the event on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, and the reach among HHs with $75,000-plus income was 6.3 million, or 30% of high-income HHs (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/11). Also in Philadelphia, Elis Lotozo writes this year's X Games roster "reveals just 21 women in a field of more than 300 athletes." Lotozo: "Why the dearth of women in action sports? Some say that gals aren't attracted to bruising, bone-jarring sports. ... Where women have made inroads, others say, their performance lags behind the men's, making them less compelling for television" (INQUIRER, 8/14).

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