SBJ/October 23 - 29, 2006/This Weeks News

Dew Tour soars on site but stumbles on TV

Michael Roby and two friends spilled through the gates of the Dew Tour’s Orlando stop with one thought on their minds: free stuff. Sure, the 15-year-olds wanted to see the skateboarding, but the second year of the Dew Tour was much improved, in Roby’s eyes, because “there’s a lot more free stuff.”

Sponsors point to their ability to reach young
consumers on site as a major plus for the tour.
“It’s all about the free stuff,” added his friend, James Taylor.

That was a thought shared by many attendees in the coveted 12- to 24-year-old demographic that sponsors and marketers targeted at the fifth and final stop of this year’s tour. Though the tour’s television ratings have struggled in its first two years, and several notable athletes elected to skip stops this year, the property’s ability to boost attendance by 7.3 percent and continue to connect with young fans such as Roby led sponsors and action sports insiders to call year two a success.

“Is it where it needs to be yet?” asked Steve Astephen, an action sports agent with Wasserman Media Group whose clients include BMX rider Dave Mirra and skateboarder Bucky Lasek. “No, absolutely not. All in all, they have done a great job, though. Attendance is up, sponsors are activating better and I hear new ones are coming on board. It’s becoming a brand.”

Three of the tour’s four event sponsors that were up for renewal — Panasonic, PlayStation and Right Guard — have signed new deals, and Toyota is expected to follow suit. The fifth sponsor, Vans, signed a three-year deal at the outset. The tour also added a wireless partner (Verizon) and Internet partner (Time Warner) this season, and Dew Tour general manager Wade Martin hopes to expand on that by filling open categories such as fast food, shaving, car insurance and a lifestyle magazine. Both a car insurance company and shaving company had people on site in Orlando.

“When (Toyota) invested in the Dew Tour and examined it after year one, we were looking at it from the standpoint of 10 years from now, will this be a compelling sports property?” said Doug Frisbie, a Toyota marketing manager. “The product and business plan and everything to date suggests it’s on that path.”

Frisbie and other marketers’ optimism is partly rooted in this year’s attendance growth. At the tour’s five stops — in Louisville, Ky., Denver, Portland, San Jose and Orlando — attendance rose from 232,631 in 2005 to 249,613 this year, or up 7.3 percent. Orlando, once again, had the highest attendance with 59,470 people turning out Oct. 12-15. Four-day tickets to the Orlando event cost $30; one-day tickets cost $12 in advance.

Orlando’s PlayStation Pro season finale drew a
record 59,470 during its four days.
While attendance improved, television ratings sagged in 2006. NBC’s ratings slipped on average from a 0.96 during the first four events last year to a 0.78 over the same period this year. Overnight Nielsen ratings for the final event in Orlando fell from 0.95 to 0.75; final numbers for that event were not available at press time.

Martin points to an unusually high 1.4, posted in July 2005 following a NASCAR lead-in, as part of the reason the ratings on NBC fell this year. Next year, he hopes to improve the numbers by securing more late-afternoon time slots. The network also may look for a more youth-oriented lead-in such as surfing or motocross to bolster ratings, said Kevin Monaghan, vice president of business development at NBC.

The tour maintained its cable numbers on USA Network, which aired a one-hour highlights program at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays during each of the five event weekends. Those programs garnered an average viewership of 0.66, down only slightly from the 0.71 posted in 2005. By comparison, the X Games averaged a 0.9 cable rating on ESPN this summer in its 12th year.

While the ratings concern tour officials, their impact appears minimal. The tour has sold out of its commercial inventory for 2007, Martin said, and most sponsors are not overly concerned by the ratings. “Do I wish they were higher?” asked Frisbie. “A three? A four? Absolutely, but that’s an unreasonable expectation this early in the event.”

Part of the reason sponsors are being patient is because of the tour’s success at reaching consumers on site and through other media platforms. A tighter sponsor village and higher attendance at each event made it easier for Vans, Oxy and others to create one-on-one interactions between brand and consumer with poster giveaways and athlete signings.

“These are interactions Vans fans hold onto and remember when they go shopping for shoes,” said Doug Palladini, Vans vice president of marketing, in an e-mail.

Off site, the Dew Tour’s one-hour, video-on-demand highlight segment was available to more than 10 million cable subscribers and received 350,000 click-through viewers, according to Rentrak, which tracks on-demand services. Also, Fuel TV produced a weekly wrap-up of each of the five stops, and the tour’s Web site traffic grew by 47 percent, according to Martin.

The growth across all platforms pleased sponsors.

“They provide great content on TV and online,” said Donna Armentor, PlayStation’s senior manager of promotions. “If anything, it would be great if they could bring up the TV ratings a bit and some locations could be looked at to make sure the tour’s in the right market each time.”

A Northeast tour stop is on the drawing board
for Dew Tour GM Wade Martin.
The tour is working on finalizing locations for 2007. All of the initial cities had a two-year contract, and some shuffling is expected. Sponsors have said that Louisville’s venue is not ideal for the sponsorship village, and while Denver is a good stop in terms of attendance, the event is considered somewhat overshadowed by the professional sports teams already in the market.

Ideally, Martin would like to find a stop in the Northeast, meaning one of the current five stops would be dropped to fit within the tour’s TV commitment of having five events in 2007. He met with leaders from Philadelphia, Cleveland and Salt Lake City about a potential stop in those cities in 2007, but no deals have been finalized. Ultimately, he said, he wants to move the stops into larger markets.

Also on the radar is the creation of a winter series, in either 2008 or 2009, Martin said. “It’s more a matter of when than if,” he said, adding that the move would further extend the brand and enhance NBC’s investment in snowboarding, an Olympic success in 2006.

“We’re looking to grow,” Martin said. “We’re not in the black yet, but we had a strong year and have done a lot to stabilize the financial model for the future.”

The Dew Tour on NBC

Event (day)
Location
2005 rating
2006 rating
Panasonic Open (Sat.)
Louisville, Ky.
1.0
0.8
Panasonic Open (Sun.)
Louisville, Ky.
0.7
1.0
Right Guard Open (Sat.)
Denver
1.4
0.7
Right Guard Open (Sun.)
Denver
1.2
0.8
Vans Invitational (Sat.)
Portland
0.8
0.6
Vans Invitational (Sun.)
Portland
0.9
0.8
Toyota Challenge (Sat.)
San Jose
0.7
0.7
Toyota Challenge (Sun.)
San Jose
0.9
0.9
PlayStation Pro (Sat.)
Orlando
0.7
0.8*
PlayStation Pro (Sun.)
Orlando
0.9
0.7*
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