SBJ/October 14 - 20, 2002/Marketingsponsorship

Putting together skate event was a marathon itself

The genesis of the Disney Inline Marathon should give any agency or governing body reason to keep trying. The International Inline Skating Association came to Jon Hughes of Event Marketing and Management and pitched the idea of a skating marathon for one of his clients, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. The skating association suggested that it be part of the Walt Disney World Marathon production.

Hughes said that wasn't logistically possible, so the association suggested a separate event, and Hughes — "I was playing devil's advocate" — said he was skeptical of the demographics and not impressed with the turnout at earlier short in-line events in Florida.

But the association produced research showing that marathon-length events draw well around the country and attract people with money to travel. After a few meetings, Disney was won over.

The Disney Inline Marathon will take place March 30, and Disney expects at least 1,000 participants, and possibly as many as 3,000 or 4,000, said Jeff Sturgeon, manager of sports programming for Disney Sports Attractions. Disney's 10-year-old half and full running marathons now attract 22,000 participants a year.

Sturgeon wouldn't discuss specifics but said many Disney events run at break-even or slightly in the black where direct costs and revenues are concerned. Disney makes its money on food, lodging and recreation for participants and their entourages.

Disney puts on roughly 180 amateur events a year, and Sturgeon said it is running up against capacity limits for traditional sports such as baseball and soccer — hence the interest in in-line skating and other newer sports.

"We're always looking for new event opportunities," Sturgeon said.

Chicago Bears cornerback Reggie Austin sports Timberland fashion
for workers.

A PRO FASHION SHOW: For a little more than $600 million, Chicago is getting a new football field — and a fashion show. The growing Timberland Pro brand hosted a fashion show last week at the Soldier Field work site, featuring Bears player Reggie Austin and a dozen workmen. The closed event was for the several hundred workers on site.

It's part of Timberland Pro's continuing grassroots "peer marketing" campaign, getting the product in front of blue-collar workers at 200 work sites a year through choreographed events like the Timberland Pro Working Man's Fashion Show in Chicago and visits to sites by its Pro Mobile display vehicle.

For the Chicago event, Timberland worked with the Bears and the Turner/Barton Malow/Kenny contractor joint venture. On Oct. 24 a similar event will take place near the FleetCenter in connection with Boston's Big Dig Worker Appreciation Day and the Bruins' home opener.

Stewart Whitney, global director for Timberland Pro, said the brand is growing at a "healthy double-digit" clip, and his marketing budget would grow similarly in 2003, although he refused to give exact numbers. Timberland Pro is the official footwear and apparel sponsor of Brett Bodine's racing team.

JEEP REVAMPS SKI EVENT: The Jeep King of the Mountain ski event, now 10 years old, has been revamped this year with the addition of a snowboard element, women participants and a lengthy grassroots amateur competition at ski venues throughout the winter. It will have four hours of tape-delayed coverage on CBS this winter via a time-buy, and two hours more via syndication on a network to be determined.

Almost every Olympic men's downhill champion since 1976 has taken part in the ski event, but the revamp stems from Jeep's desire to reach a younger demographic for its Liberty vehicle. The Grand Cherokee, the showpiece in past years; appeals to the 25-to-54 crowd, while the Liberty hits the 18-to-29 group.

Jeep sponsored the event for its first five years, then Ford took over for three. Last year Jeep returned, and at year's end requested proposals from agencies for a new winter-sports marketing program. Despite competition from larger agencies, Vail, Colo.-based Eclipse Sports Marketing & Television kept the Jeep account, and then set to work making over the event.

Eclipse President Henry Schneidman said the additions are aimed at keeping the event and Jeep in front of athletes, fans and potential customers all winter. The event kicks off Dec. 1, and telecasts will stretch into February.

Jeep's cash commitment to the event is in the low seven figures, Schneidman said. Secondary sponsorships range from $75,000 to nearly $500,000.

Noah Liberman can be reached at nliberman@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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