The Atlanta-based online automotive
The postgame show will last three minutes and run immediately at the conclusion of each game, through Dec. 22.
Late finishes on East Coast
While Monday Night Football is consistently a top 10 finisher in the yearly Nielsen Ratings, the game's 9 p.m. start in the eastern time zone sometimes causes the game to end well after midnight. The time zone has approximately 40% of the nation's TV viewers, the largest in the country, and includes key markets such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and Washington. Those are all cities with a NFL franchise and, in fact, 17 of the league's 32 teams are in the eastern time zone.
Autotrader.com sponsored the postgame show on Fox, part of News Corp., for the last three years, which aired the majority of its games on Sunday afternoons, a time slot that doesn't present the same challenges faced by Monday Night Football. ABC is part of the Walt Disney Co.
Looked at the numbers
"We did consider it, but we looked at the numbers and we didn't see a dramatic drop off [in viewers] from the first quarter to the fourth quarter," said John Kovac, director of advertising for Autotrader.com. "We felt it was a strong audience, and the show is immediately following the game so it's something where we think we can hold on to the viewers. This was an important deal for our dealers. Monday Night Football is a brand unto itself."
The deal was negotiated by Autotrader.com's advertising agency, Doner, Southfield, Mich.
"We approached ABC about our idea and they were very receptive," said John Sloan, a Doner executive vice president who oversees the Autotrader.com account. "We weren't just interested in buying time. We were interested in making an impact. We had a good relationship with Fox, but the chance to get into prime time and on Monday Night Football was an opportunity we couldn't pass up."
Executives from Fox had not commented by press time.
All-time low ratings
Though ratings were at an all-time low of 11.4 for the 2002 season, Monday Night Football remains a TV staple. This will be its 34th season, the longest-running show on TV with more than 500 episodes, and it has finished in the Nielsen top 10 for the last 13 years.
The value of the sponsorship deal was not disclosed, but Autotrader.com spent $18 million on media buys last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, and most of it was sports-related. The marketer also has sponsorship deals with the NCAA basketball tournament on Viacom's CBS, and with Nascar on Fox.
In addition to the postgame show, Autotrader.com will also have placements on ABC sibling network ESPN, including a customized in-game feature called "The Drive of the Week" on ESPN2's weekly NFL Live show.