SBJ/June 20 - 26, 2005/Marketingsponsorship

ESPN launching fantasy football game for 2005 with Goodyear as presenting sponsor

ESPN has signed Goodyear as presenting sponsor of its 2005 fantasy football game on espn.com.

The sponsorship is expected to be announced this week as part of an overall unveiling of ESPN’s 2005 fantasy football programming plans. Terms of the sponsorship were not disclosed, but title or presenting sponsorships for fantasy football products now typically exceed seven figures annually for the major Web sites. ESPN officials said they are still in discussions with other potential sponsors for the 2005 fantasy season.

ESPN is introducing a new pricing model.
This is Goodyear’s first fantasy sponsorship.

“Fantasy sports leagues are a tremendous way to reach a large number of consumers, and espn.com is the top sports destination,” said Chuck Sinclair, senior vice president of global communications for Goodyear.

ESPN.com will offer its league manager product for free in 2005, although participants will have the option of paying for leagues that come with real-time scoring tools and other premium content. This new pricing model, utilized with great success in recent years by Yahoo! Sports, is part of an effort by ESPN to canvas more of the 15 million people who played fantasy sports in 2004, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

A Nielsen/NetRatings study conducted last October found Yahoo! Sports had more than 3 million fantasy subscribers, while espn.com and SportsLine.com, which unlike Yahoo! charged for their league manager products, each had just under 1 million players.

For the fantasy participants the discount does not attract, ESPN executives are looking to the network’s promotional machine to take care of things.

ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown” and “SportsCenter” shows will feature fantasy football segments before the start of the NFL season. On Aug. 25, ESPN will televise a 90-minute fantasy football special that last year aired via pay-per-view. Fantasy content and analysis will be featured on “NFL Live,” which airs five nights a week during the season, and on ESPN Radio.

The first ESPN 2005 Fantasy Football Guide is to hit newsstands on Tuesday. The $6.99, 176-page, stand-alone issue features San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson on the cover and will be available to Insider subscribers on espn.com.

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