SBJ/November 19 - 25, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Wendy’s places $10M ESPN order

Wendy's restaurants will spend more than $10 million next year on an ESPN multimedia advertising package that will include the presenting sponsorship of "SportsCenter's" Showcase Highlight.

The agreement, which kicks off early in the second quarter of 2002, calls for Wendy's to sponsor both the television and online voting component of the nightly Showcase Highlight, a matchup that receives expanded coverage after being selected by espn.com users. Wendy's also will stage a sweepstakes tied to the voting and back the promotion through dedicated advertising with ESPN Radio and ESPN The Magazine. The deal also includes some spots on next year's "Monday Night Football" broadcasts on ABC.

More than 20 percent of the value of the package will come from nontelevision advertising, mostly on espn.com, said Ed Erhardt, president of sales for ESPN and ABC Sports, both owned by the Walt Disney Co.

Tapping into print and online inventory and multiple networks has become standard at Disney. Erhardt said that more than half of all the seven-figure advertising deals sold by the company now involve more than one media property.

Erhardt pointed to the Wendy's agreement as a perfect example of how ESPN not only is trying to package advertising inventory well beyond the confines of television but also is adding promotional hooks.

"We're trying to move it past cross-platform or integrated deals," he said. "We're trying to activate consumers."

The Wendy's sponsorship will be limited to the 1 a.m. "SportsCenter," which, while not the most-watched on the East Coast, is in prime time in the Pacific time zone and also ties in with the Wendy's slogan "Eat Great, Even Late."

Tom Morelli, senior vice president, director of media planning at Bates USA, Wendy's advertising agency, said the deal will see Wendy's increase its ad spending with ESPN by about 30 percent next year.

Wendy's was a sponsor of the NHL through last season and bought large blocks of advertising on ESPN's NHL programming but did not renew its NHL agreement.

Morelli said that by linking with "SportsCenter," Wendy's is getting the same sort of benefits it would from sponsoring a league.

"This deal was about finding ways to leverage high-profile media brands that are important to the Wendy's consumer," he said. "'SportsCenter' is an icon in the sports world. Our sponsorship and involvement takes on a similar feel or quality as would a league sponsorship."

Erhardt said ESPN does not intend to compete with the pro leagues for sponsorship dollars but added that ESPN properties such as "SportsCenter," the X Games and ESPN Outdoors are legitimate sponsorship options.

"For certain advertisers who want to be in sports and not necessarily align themselves with a league, we are an alternative," he said.

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