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Volume 21 No. 1
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X Games puts three sponsors into the action

In addition to signs, Jeep will have a vehicle on a competition course.
Looking to entice advertisers and bolster sales for the X Games, ESPN’s sales team for the first time is giving three sponsors branded inventory within competition courses during this week’s Winter X Games.

EA Sports will have a branded bench where competitors sit before entering the halfpipe, Red Bull will have signage on the slopestyle course and Jeep will have a vehicle displayed on the slopestyle course during competition, which begins Thursday in Aspen, Colo.

“So much of the value of sponsoring the X Games is on-site, and giving them some of the highest-profile position on course enables us to get deeper into their business,” said Mark Nolan, vice president of X Games sales.

ESPN sold 11 sponsorships across three categories for this year’s X Games: official partners, event sponsors and other sponsors. Last year, it sold 25 sponsorships across five categories: official partners, multimedia sponsors, TV-only sponsors, digital-only sponsors and sponsors.

The company this year signed four official sponsorships with Red Bull, Jeep, the U.S. Navy, and Verizon and Casio, which are collaborating to promote Casio’s G’zOne Ravine phone. Those sponsors receive rights to the X Games marks, on-site activation, on-site signage and a fully integrated media buy across ESPN’s TV, digital, print and radio platforms.

The North Face, Vitaminwater, EA Sports and “Act of Valor,” a film about Navy SEALs, signed on as event sponsors and will receive on-site signage, on-site hospitality and activation rights, and TV, digital, radio and print advertising. GoPro, GNC and Loctite signed on as other sponsors and each received customized assets.

Terms of the sponsorships were not available. The assets vary in each sponsorship depending on a company’s marketing priorities.

The 2011 Winter X Games sponsors who didn’t return this year were: official partner BF Goodrich; multimedia partner Oakley; TV-only sponsors Axe, State Farm, Sony Video Games, Monster, Burton, Apple, Disney and Samsung Mobile; digital-only sponsors Frontier and Spirit airlines; and sponsors Texas Pete, Polaris, Contour, Arma, Nixon Watches and UFC.

“We’ve been more concerned with doing deeper integrations with our clients and less concerned with the number of clients we have,” Nolan said. “The less sponsors probably the more opportunity we have to get deeper into their business, understanding what their marketing goals are and creating programs on-air, online or on-site that achieve that goal.”

The X Games’ contract with Aspen Skiing Co. to hold its event at Buttermilk Mountain is up at the end of this year. The event has been held there since 2002. The city of Aspen has paid $100,000 annually to Aspen Skiing Co. as part of an incentive package to ESPN for bringing the X Games to town.

Scott Guglielmino, senior vice president of programming and global X Games for ESPN, said that he expects to meet with Aspen Skiing Co. executives during the event. He didn’t have a deadline for a new agreement.