How a Skateboarder's Personal Ride Becomes a Chance for a Sponsorship

Jeep Backs Mike Vallely's Cable TV Show, Delivers a New SUV

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The deal: Jeep partners up with Mike Vallely after the skateboarding star makes his 1980s Wagoneer a character on his Fuel series "Drive."

The result: A new set of wheels for Mr. Vallely and some serious exposure for Jeep and its lineup of new vehicles, including its Commander SUV, among males ages 12 to 24.

Mike Vallely with his old-school Jeep Wagoneer. The automaker has linked up with the skateboarding star for season two of his Fuel network show "Drive."

Skateboarding star Mike Vallely has spent many years driving a well-worn Jeep Wagoneer around the country for competitions, personal appearances and inspirational talks to children.

The vintage 1980s Wagoneer, complete with its so-cheesy-it's-hip side wood paneling, became a character in its own right in a short film Mr. Vallely made about his travels and in a spinoff cable TV show on News Corp.'s Fuel action-sports network.

Jeep provides an upgrade

Now, as part of a newly inked deal with the carmaker, Mr. Vallely has upgraded his wheels. The new Jeep Commander SUV will appear in Fuel's "Drive: Notes from the Wilderness," and become Mr. Vallely's constant companion on his frequent road trips.

The deal includes not only brand integration into the second season of "Drive," premiering in the spring, but also makes Mr. Vallely a Jeep spokesman for the next year, with Jeep signage on his helmet and other equipment.

The agreement stands out because it will significantly wrap the car marketer around Mr. Vallely's life, gaining valuable exposure for Jeep with the sought-after 12- to 24-year-old male demographic. Marketers in general are increasingly trying to surround sports and media stars, taking their sponsorships and brand integration to multiple platforms.

"Every time you turn around, there's another possible extension," said Jennifer Tabaczuk, account manager at Jeep's agency, BBDO, Detroit. "And it even reaches beyond what's written on paper."

Jeep will sponsor the "Mike V Rebel Music Tour," which features Mr. Vallely's band, Revolution Mother, and his skate-park appearances, as well as a re-broadcast of season one of "Drive" this fall and will be featured across various online and on-air promotions. The automaker has also created a sweepstakes to give away a new Wrangler, with Mr. Vallely presenting it to the winner during a live broadcast on Fuel.

Tony Hawk and the Gumball 3000

Separate but related deals will put several Jeep models into Activision's new "Project 8" video game, which stars skating legend Tony Hawk and features Mr. Vallely. The game comes out this fall, and Mr. Hawk and Mr. Vallely drove a Jeep Cherokee in this spring's transcontinental Gumball 3000 rally, with news and updates getting prominent placement on both men's MySpace pages.

The endorsement deal with Mr. Vallely works for Jeep because the marketer is trying to position its new models, such as the Commander and the Wrangler, as aspirational buys for young men. That's especially true for the Commander, a seven-passenger SUV that sells for more than $30,000. Jeep, which had three models in its lineup last year, adds four new or newly redesigned cars this year, among them the Jeep Compass, an entry-level sport utility vehicle.

"Guys like Mike V are role models for kids," Ms. Tabaczuk said. "What they drive definitely makes an impression."

Fuel, a network available in about 22 million homes, had an existing relationship with Jeep as an advertiser on the network and as a sponsor of skateboarding and music events such as Mr. Hawk's Boom Boom Huckjam tour.

Pairing a new model with a classic

C.J. Olivares, the network's senior VP-assistant general manager, and the ad-sales team brought "Drive" to Jeep's attention. The show had no sponsors during its first season, and Mr. Olivares said it felt organic to pair a new model with a show that featured a classic.

Just to clarify: Mr. Vallely has not dropped the Wagoneer. He still drives the vintage model in the next season of "Drive," but it's tailed closely by a Commander that's used as a production vehicle.

Fuel negotiated the show sponsorship deal and also packaged the rest of Mr. Vallely's relationship with Jeep. The marketer paid one price, an undisclosed fee, for the media buy and endorsement package. The network will provide a major chunk of exposure for both parties. As it has done in the past, Fuel will cover Mr. Vallely's various sports and music activities and, by extension, his ongoing connection with Jeep. Fuel also will feature Mr. Vallely in its shows such as "Daily Habit" and via interstitials.

"We try to work with agencies and brands directly to customize opportunities," Mr. Olivares said. "We do the best we can to represent brands in an authentic way."
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