SBJ/March 28-April 3, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Intersport keeps State Farm, others linked to Final Four

State Farm might not be an NCAA partner anymore, but it still has a strong presence at the Final Four.

Intersport, a Chicago-based agency that creates sporting events and turns them into TV shows, has added more event programming to its Final Four lineup. That programming provides companies like State Farm and Papa John’s, which aren’t NCAA sponsors, an activation opportunity in the Final Four city, as well as a media buy within basketball programming on ESPN or CBS during the weekend.

“It’s a perfect complement to a lot of the other activation we have in the sports space and within our college portfolio,” said Todd Fischer, manager of State Farm’s national sponsorships. Even though State Farm didn’t renew its NCAA deal, “the college fan is still very important to us and being a part of the Final Four is a great extension to our other college properties.”

INTERSPORT
The State Farm college dunk and 3-point contest highlights Intersport’s lineup.
Intersport’s Final Four programming is growing this year with a new show and an additional event. This week, Intersport is producing two events in Houston, site of the Final Four, that will result in 3.5 hours of programming during Final Four weekend on ESPN and CBS, including the college slam dunk and 3-point contests that State Farm title sponsors. A high school version of the event is new this year.

In all, Intersport will produce 4.5 hours of programming for Final Four weekend and 8.5 hours of college basketball programming including the week before the Final Four.

The State Farm college dunk and 3-point contest will be held Thursday night at the University of Houston’s Hofheinz Pavilion and airs later that night on ESPN for two hours. The event was held inside the NCAA’s Bracket Town fan fest area last year, but sponsor conflicts caused it to move out this year.

ESPN is the co-producer of the event and uses the program to fill the 9-11 p.m. slot after the championship game of the NIT. ESPN talent calls the event as well.

The high school version of the dunk and 3-point contest will be Friday at the Berry Center and airs for 90 minutes Sunday afternoon on CBS.

Another Intersport program, “Papa John’s Dunks of the Year,” will air on CBS for an hour Sunday afternoon. Papa John’s has had a presence at the Final Four in the past, thanks to pass-through rights from NCAA corporate champion Coca-Cola, but Coke shifted gears this year and went with Domino’s as its pizza partner. Earlier this week, “Geico’s Best of College Basketball” played on CBS and three episodes of the “State Farm Coaches Tournament Show” aired on FSN. Both are produced by Intersport, and the Geico show is new this year.

The programs that appear on CBS are time buys by Intersport. The agency works with the network to find gaps in its Final Four lineup where the Intersport programming would be most useful.

The sponsors signed by Intersport occupy all of the ad time on the broadcast. State Farm has sponsored the 23-year-old college dunk and 3-point contests since 2005, and Mercedes-Benz, Denny’s, Skechers, TD Ameritrade, the U.S. Marines and FRS Healthy Energy are sponsors as well.

The spend for a title sponsor like State Farm, which has Intersport’s premier event and the “Coaches Tournament Show,” rises into the low seven figures, according to industry analysts. Participating sponsorships begin in the low six figures and can rise into the high six figures, depending on ad units and activation.

“The amount of programming this year is definitely up from previous years,” said Scot Thor, Intersport’s senior vice president of programming and production. “We’ve got a few tentpole properties that we go to market with every year and we’ve got some events, like the high school dunk and 3-point contest, that are new. What these do, in part, is to help us ‘own the dunk’ this weekend.”

Some sponsors cross over into multiple events and programs around the Final Four. Mercedes sponsors the college dunk and 3-point contest, the “State Farm Coaches Tournament Show” on FSN, “Papa John’s Dunks of the Year” on CBS and “Geico Presents the Best in College Basketball 2011” on CBS.

Intersport is careful not to put sponsors from the same category into an event. State Farm is not eligible to be a secondary sponsor on Geico’s show, for example.

“Sponsors typically get a package of ad units, on-site signage and significant integration into the show,” Thor said. “Our sponsors make up all of that national advertising. We may sell an occasional [scattered unit] here and there, but most of the inventory is packaged.”

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