SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Media

Bush strategist: Sports reaches voters

Bush used ads on the Olympics and other events in his campaign against John Kerry.

The chief strategist of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign says that advertising on sports telecasts was one of the Republicans’ most effective strategies last year, and he expects sports to be a focal point for many campaigns in the future.

“It was very important,” said Matthew Dowd, the architect of Bush-Cheney media and target marketing strategies, following an appearance at the NBA’s Technology Summit held the Friday before the All-Star Game in Denver. “Traditionally, political campaigns avoided [sports advertising], because of cost and because there was a thought that people didn’t want to hear about politics while watching sports.”

But Dowd said sports ads offered a chance to reach audiences with specific political leanings, because different sports attract different types of individuals. NASCAR, golf and hockey were identified as sports with heavy Republican audiences, while basketball viewers leaned more Democratic, Dowd said.

The campaign went as far as to pinpoint specific broadcasts during the Olympics to match up ads with particular sports.

“We found, for example, we could reach female Republicans through gymnastics,” Dowd said.

He said the Bush-Cheney campaign spent more than $20 million during the Olympics in August, on both Olympic broadcasts and other programming.

Dowd also described college football as a “very good buy,” especially when the matchup was two schools that hailed from so-called “swing-vote” states.

The Bush-Cheney campaign primarily tried to reach Republicans through its TV ads, to stress key messages of the re-election campaign, Dowd said. The campaign bought television time primarily on a local basis but also purchased some national cable, including on ESPN.

Dowd said the success with sports will transform political campaigns.

“My guess is the share going to sports will go up,” he said.

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