SBJ/May 9-15, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Performance-enhancing TV: SNY ads show impact of sports

Terry Lefton
Since Viagra was cleared for use by the FDA in 1998, sports marketers and consumers have learned to tolerate those charming warnings about prolonged erections, which seem only to air when you are seated next to a child to whom you’d much prefer to be explaining the intricacies of the infield fly rule.

The days of intellectual property rights with sports properties have come and gone, but since ED meds are the most male-targeted product this side of shaving cream, their presence on sports media will probably never shrink. In what might be called a related development, a new ad campaign from SportsNet New York is using testosterone, or the lack
thereof, in an attempt to convince viewers that watching the Mets and other sports programming on the RSN can raise levels of testosterone. Thus TV goes from being “The Plug-In Drug” to being a PED in its own right, since testosterone is a naturally occurring anabolic steroid.

It’s all part of a new effort from the RSN and ad agency
Ogilvy & Mather
, which has been SNY’s agency since the RSN launched five years ago. The campaign is very loosely based on a 1998 study from the University of Utah’s Department of Educational Psychology that found increases and decreases in testosterone levels based on “vicarious experiences of winning and losing” among males after viewing live college basketball games and televised World Cup soccer matches, eliciting “physiological
Amusing SportsNet New York advertisements aim to show how watching sports on the RSN can boost one’s testosterone levels.
consequences that extend beyond changes in mood and self-esteem.” Increases in testosterone by a mean of 20 percent were observed, and that was enough to afford dramatic license for a campaign using three amusing spots that begin airing this month.

In “Libido,” a 95-year-old man goes from doddering to pandering while watching SNY. By the end of the spot, his comely companion, at least 60 years younger, is reaching for the oxygen tank. In “Muscles,” a skinny man’s physique is transformed from slender to one befitting a pro wrestler, and he rips off his clothes to reveal a leopard-skin suit. “Sasquatch” depicts a pasty-faced guy who turns into a hairy Bigfoot while watching SNY. Associated 15-second promos resemble a test pattern and confirm to viewers that their testosterone levels have been adjusted to proper levels.
“They support our brand position of having more New York sports on air than anywhere else and we think they will stand up for quite a while on the air,” said SNY President Steve Raab. Other than the RSN’s own air, the ads will run on a variety of cable outlets, in news, late night, and sports programming.

GOING SWIMMINGLY: Michael Phelps is back in the pool with Subway restaurants. The multiple Olympic gold medalist shot some ads in late April in and around the pool at Loyola University in Baltimore that could air as soon as next month. Phelps “is extremely popular across all of our customer demo and has done as good a job as any of our athletes at driving home our healthy, active brand message,” said CMO Tony Pace. Also appearing in those ads will be Fox TV talent Jay Glazer.

NET GAIN: Esurance, which came on as a sponsor of the U.S. Open just before the tennis tourney last August, has extended and renewed its sponsorship of the auto insurance category through 2012. Added to the deal is the sponsorship of four U.S. Open Series events in Atlanta; Stanford, Calif.; Winston-Salem, N.C.; and New Haven, Conn. The deal includes Esurance support of U.S. Tennis Association media rights holders and USTA digital assets, and continuing support of the U.S. Open’s green initiatives.

COMINGS & GOINGS: Ethan Green has been hired as vice president of sponsorship at Citigroup in New York. Green has held marketing/sponsorship spots with WWE, the Dew Tour, Redmandarin and Compaq. He will report to Tina Davis, senior vice president of corporate sponsorships and marketing.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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