SBD/Issue 204/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Decision Day: Unclear How Much Boys & Girls Clubs Stand To Gain

Sprite Is One Of James' Sponsors Who
Will Be Advertising During ESPN's Special

Ad time for tonight's ESPN LeBron James special "The Decision" has been donated to James' marketing company, LRMR Marketing, "with proceeds to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of America," but it is "unclear how much the Boys and Girls Club will reap from its tie-in," according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Advertising analysis firm TargetCast indicated that ESPN's average cost for a single 30-second ad "reached $27,000 last year" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/8). Boys & Girls Clubs of America spokesperson Frank Sanchez said that the proceeds from tonight's special "will be used to support the 4,000 local clubs that comprise" the organization. Sanchez: "This is going to serve our local clubs and our club members extremely well. Our local clubs are going to have a great experience because of this contribution." He added that the donation is an "'amazing opportunity' for the organization's countrywide efforts to build basketball courts for young people." MEDIA DAILY NEWS' David Goetzl noted James' foundation "has worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for some time" (MEDIAPOST.com, 7/7). James tonight "will reveal his choice of team" at the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, Conn. (GREENWICH TIME, 7/8).

SPECIFIC SPONSORS SELECTED: In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch notes James "is a pitchman for five" of the six companies that bought spots during the special -- Bing, McDonald's, Nike, Sprite and Vitaminwater. The other buyer is the Univ. of Phoenix. The only commercial spots "scheduled to run during the show that won't benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs are the ones regularly set aside for local cable operators" (N.Y. POST, 7/8). ESPN said that the sponsors "were lined up" by James and LRMR. In N.Y., Stuart Elliott noted like the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics, there are "tiers or levels to the types of sponsorships for 'The Decision.'" Univ. of Phoenix and Bing "will be the co-presenters of the show," while Vitaminwater and McDonald's are sponsors "on a lower tier." ESPN said that Sprite and Nike "will make contributions to support the charitable elements of the program." Elliott noted as of yesterday it was unclear "whether there would be commercials during the show or whether the advertisers would be acknowledged in some way" (NYTIMES.com, 7/7). AD AGE's Brian Steinberg wrote the degree to which ESPN is "letting the subject of its coverage outline the business of the event is, quite frankly, stunning." Giving away "valuable ad dollars in exchange for the chance to broadcast a popular sports, news or celebrity event seems unlikely to spread quickly." Steinberg: "It's remarkable to see a TV network give up so much ground" (ADAGE.com, 7/7).

RSNS STAND TO GAIN: LHB Sports Entertainment & Media President & CEO Lee Berke said that MSG Network, Comcast SportsNet Chicago or Sun Sports "could easily raise their related ad rates by 10-15%" should James sign with the Knicks, Bulls or Heat, respectively. The net also could "expect to clear the ad inventory before next season begins." Berke added that should James "elevate his new team's play to championship caliber ... a future rise in affil rates is also likely, if not assured." CABLEFAX DAILY writes the stakes "may be highest" for Cavaliers broadcaster FS Ohio, and Berke said James' decision is "critical for (the net) because it's built on the Cavs product." Meanwhile, MSG Net is "further impacted by the hunt because it's publicly tradeable" as part of parent company MSG. MSG shares since the start of free agency last Thursday have "gained approx 9.7%, including 6.4%" yesterday alone (CABLEFAX DAILY, 7/8).

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