Panasonic Continues Push to Connect With Action-Sports Crowd

Signs on 17-Year-Old Skateboarding Icon to Promote Video-Sharing Site

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NEW YORK -- Tony Hawk munched on Bagel Bites. Shaun White rocked the American Express Card. And now Panasonic has enlisted 17-year-old pro skateboarder Ryan Sheckler to be the face of Share the Air, the marketer's action-sports website.

Pro skateboarder Ryan Sheckler, with his 'Old School' Panasonic headphones, has helped spur sales.

Panasonic was looking for a way to show that its products are durable and user-friendly, so the consumer-electronics marketer signed on with NBC Universal and Live Nation's AST Dew Tour in 2005 to market its headphones, digital cameras and HD camcorders to young, active crowds that use the devices in the most extreme ways. With help from New York-based Renegade Marketing Group, the brand targeted consumers not only at each of the five stops on the action-sports tour or through TV but also via the web. And Share the Air was born.

Fans can share footage
The site, which launched in May 2006 and was updated a year later, gives action-sports athletes and fans the chance to share footage of their latest tricks and read blogs written by some of the big names in the business, such as Eric Koston, a founding member of Girl Skateboards and Fourstar Clothing.

"Knowing [Panasonic's] previous involvement, the goal of the whole website was to provide Panasonic with a presence outside the physical tour," said Lara Bass, VP-account director, Renegade. There's camaraderie in action sports; it's really about sharing the experience. And you're capturing and sharing your experience with Panasonic."

The site is also hosting an open call for 24-second action-sports clips. Two grand-prize winners will receive Panasonic HD camcorders. Those who take the gnarliest still shots have a chance to win a Panasonic Lumix digital camera.

"We're reaching the masses with the TV ads and live broadcasts, but it's a limited number of people," Ms. Bass said. "The web is a great way to reach the youth."

Branded-event marketing
Panasonic wanted to make sure that skaters and riders would be able to get the whole brand experience. At each stop of the tour, the brand showcases its products in a Panasonic Experience tent featuring its 103-inch plasma TV. Fans have a chance to borrow a Panasonic Lumix during the day to take photos and video of their favorite riders or record their own tricks. Participants will be able to keep the memory card that recorded their footage, which they can share or upload to Share the Air. Ryan Sheckler fans will also be able to meet the skateboarder at each stop.

But what drew Panasonic to recruit the up-and-coming Mr. Sheckler? "His broader appeal," said Debra Bass, VP of Panasonic's consumer-marketing group. "He's such a teen icon and just universally known. He's a great spokesperson for our brand."

Since the Ryan Sheckler/Share the Air campaign went live, Panasonic's sales have increased greatly, especially the RP-HTX7-A "Old School" Headphones, which Mr. Sheckler wears to each competition. The brand tracks the campaign's success with consumers aged 12-24 during its quarterly study and makes sure to build relevancy with this age group. The website's popularity is on the rise, with more than 775,000 page views since its launch last year, and online traffic outside the summer tour received more than 18,000 hits. The Share the Air videos have been viewed more than 200,000 times on other video sites, such as YouTube.

Panasonic spent $109 million on measured media in 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Last year, about $14.8 million was spent on promoting its line of cameras and photographic supplies while $61.8 million was spent on entertainment equipment and supplies, including headphones.

Panasonic plans to keep the site up and running even after the tour ends in October in hopes of allowing more people to view and upload action-sports content to the website. "It's a venue that fits into [young consumers'] lives. It keeps the sport alive throughout the year," Ms. Debra Bass said. "Share the Air keeps the spirit of the tour alive."
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