SBJ/October 29 - November 4, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Powerade puts name on NHL all-star voting; Dodge keeps role

Coke's Powerade brand will have title sponsorship of NHL all-star balloting this year, with fellow NHL corporate partner Dodge continuing as presenting sponsor. McDonald's Canada also remains a sponsor at its 1,300 locations.

Sweepstakes on the paper ballot include a car giveaway from Dodge.

NHL sponsorship chief Andrew Judelson said Coke, on top of its recent renewal, paid an incremental six-figure fee for both title sponsorship of fan balloting and the NHL's weekly "Cool Shots" TV show.

Without a U.S. fast-food sponsor this season, or any sponsor with a multitude of retail locations, this year's U.S. all-star balloting program is restricted to NHL arenas, which will each receive about 125,000 ballots for use during the Nov. 9-Jan. 2 voting period. Marketing support includes NHL asset media, and signs and announcements in arenas.

Former NHL sponsor Wendy's was the balloting sponsor for the last three years.

Increasingly, the question for fan-balloting programs is whether the paper ballot, compared with Internet voting, is worth the expense of printing and distributing. Leagues have long sold the programs to gas stations, convenience stores and quick-service restaurants with thousands of locations on the theory that they drive fans to retail.

Retailers already beset with operational issues, however, largely consider erecting any point-of-sale display an unwelcome chore. Add to that factor the ease and cost of Internet balloting, and the question is whether all these programs will end up as virtual one day. NHL sponsor Nextel, for example, could mount a wireless balloting effort.

The NFL already has moved retail balloting to cyberspace, with its program with Blockbuster this season. Blockbuster already had voting kiosks from its own balloting program.

"You've still got an imperative to use these as a retail program, and there are still some fans who like to have something they can hold and something you can distribute at the games, so I suspect paper will be around until arenas are completely wired or we have the kind of cell phone interactivity they have in Scandinavia," said Keith Ritter, president of NHL Interactive CyberEnterprises, citing a region considered one of the world's leaders in cell phone development.

Ease of changing virtual balloting programs and costs aside, there seems still to be a paper balloting preference for now.

"It's a touchy-feely thing, and some people still don't trust the Internet will get their votes right," said Christine Reidinger, director of client services at Big Ballot, a Rutherford, N.J., company that handles balloting programs for the NBA, MLB and others.

The NHL has a game title sponsor and balloting title and presenting sponsors, creating the "Nextel NHL All-Star Game with Powerade fan balloting presented by Dodge."

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