SBJ/March 18 - 24, 2002/Marketingsponsorship

If you want Web advertisers, understand the demographic they chase

It used to be that advertisers trying to attract 12- to 24-year-olds looked to mainstream television sports broadcasts as their primary option. Now, mainstream sports and television are starting to take a back seat to upstart sports and the Internet as advertisers try to reach this elusive consumer demographic group through the Web.

"The average running time of an NFL game is 3 hours, 10 minutes, and of that there are only 16 minutes of live game action," said Rick Burton, director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon's School of Business. "I think the younger generation, which can get constant stimulation from video games, won't put up with that. Ten years from now, kids aren't going to suddenly start sitting on the couch to watch a game."

The transformation of alternative sports to the mainstream may happen sooner than he thinks. The Internet will play a large role.

The Web already permits coverage of sports such as snowboarding and skateboarding that are infrequently on television. One need only look at the Winter Olympics to see that new-age sports are growing and have a relevant and contemporary image, something sponsors are becoming increasingly aware of.

In fact, many industry analysts are so keen on discovering new sports suitable for the Internet that a few such pursuits (sailing, mountain sports and fishing) may find their primary home on the Web. Analysts predict that these sports have the potential to be to the Internet what football was for television and baseball was for radio. The emergence of those two major sports into American folklore occurred at the same time as each medium's emergence in American culture.

Madison Avenue is signing on to the Web and sometimes turning off the television and its mainstream sports to do it. Doritos abandoned its Super Bowl buy, once the cornerstone of its TV ad strategy, to go online in search of younger buyers.

Doritos, according to Cammie Dunaway, vice president and general manager for children and teen marketing at Frito-Lay, plans to triple its 2002 online advertising budget to position the brand in front of the young adults who are consumed by electronic gadgets.

The plan is an extension of Doritos' "For the bold and daring" mass media ad campaign developed by Atmosphere, the New York-based interactive division of BBDO Worldwide.

Doritos turned its Web site (doritos.com) into an interactive destination for all of its marketing efforts. The brand already has established marketing tie-ins with popular Web sites and progressive sites that cover extreme sports.

"We want to make sure teens are talking about and thinking about Doritos all the time, and it is impossible to do that without having a significant presence online," Dunaway said.

The company is willing to spend to back it up. Doritos, according to Atmosphere, plans to spend almost 10 percent of its 2002 marketing budget online.

While the shift by advertisers is toward upstart sports online, team executives from mainstream sports must ensure that their sites have compelling content that advertisers need. Consumer-goods brands like Doritos will continue to spend marketing dollars on sites that deliver positive feedback and generate specific results.

Executives need not only to pursue brands that match Doritos' marketing objectives but also to understand what makes this demographic group tick. As great as the potential of this group is, for corporations and properties, there are a few guidelines that executives need to understand to make sure the marketing message is received.

Younger adults are more interested in lifestyle features and historically are not as consumed with statistical information as older fans. They don't like to have their experiences interrupted or bombarded with intrusive advertising. A large part of their space is in front of a technical gadget of some sort.

Marketers must realize that to capture the attention of this audience, they have to engage them with targeted messages. The key to success will be to find features that enhance, not hinder, their interactive experience.

It should be obvious to most marketers that sports sites do this better than any other online destinations.

Dan Migala (dmigala@teammarketing.com) is the author of "Interactive Sports Strategies."

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