With Super Bowl in Town, Events Planner Sees Chance to Score

944 Media to Plug Magazine, Scottsdale While Teaming With Brands for 'Super Village' Bash

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NEW YORK -- The highly coveted (and high-priced) commercial breaks won't be the only places marketers will be vying for sports fans' attention at Super Bowl XLII in Scottsdale, Ariz.

A regional lifestyle magazine based in Phoenix, titled 944, has recruited the likes of Anheuser-Busch, Bacardi and Sprint, among others, for a three-day branded-entertainment experience known as the 944 Super Village, which will occupy four acres of space in downtown Scottsdale. The Super Village also serves as one of the most ambitious on-site marketing events in the Super Bowl's history, similar to the Bud Bowl A-B has been hosting since 1989 that will also return this year.

Regional event business
Marc Lotenberg, CEO of 944 Media, said the idea for the village originated last year when the Super Bowl's host committee announced the 2008 game would be held in Scottsdale, near the magazine's Phoenix headquarters. Although 944 Media has been in the regional event business for 10 years, 944 the magazine wasn't launched until 2001 as a way to put a broader spin on the lifestyle-magazine format.

"What 944 is about is being less like a regional magazine with national appeal but more like a national magazine with regional appeal," Mr. Lotenberg said.

The 21- to 28-year-old-skewing publication has a large national section in its pages and has long focused on sports and nightlife, thus making a big event for Super Bowl XLII a perfect fit -- particularly because it offered a chance for the magazine to spotlight Scottsdale. Mr. Lotenberg said the perception tends to be "all cactus and sand" when in fact the city has plenty to offer in luxury goods, restaurants and architecture.

"Although it's one of the fastest-growing cities, it doesn't get the exposure or recognition it really deserves," he said. Investing in the multimillion-dollar event is not only an attempt to benefit the city, but also serve as an "audition" for 944's growth in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area and the other cities it recently has launched branch publications in. Other 944 markets include San Diego, Miami, Las Vegas and Orange County, Calif., with a total audited circulation of 250,000.

Embracing the local scene
"When we go into a market, we really try to embrace the local scene. We try not to come in as that corporate company telling everyone what we know," Mr. Lotenberg said.

The 944 Super Village's marketing partners took a similar approach. Courtney Winter, marketing manager at Bacardi USA, said the spirits company has partnered with 944 on events for several years, and 944 has helped the marketer overdeliver in its event marketing whenever they partner.

"They realize there's value in certain key mediums that focus on the event side of things," she said. "Basically, Bacardi envisions the 944 Super Village as an opportunity to speak to the legal-drinking-age, 21- to-29-year-old consumer in a premium light when promoting a national brand platform." For a company that spends more than $25 million on marketing its rum alone, that opportunity includes experiential marketing opportunities such as a mojito-mixing VIP lounge and the Bacardi mobile tour bus. "We'd rather do a dozen key promotions throughout the year rather than do a ton of promotions where no one remembers what they had a sample of," Ms. Winter added.

Anheuser-Busch, which has long been the Bowl's biggest supporter by hosting the Bud Bowl and buying 10 spots during the telecast, has an even more active approach to local sports marketing. "It's all about getting all the promotional materials in place, between the magazine and local radio and media and supporting it appropriately," said Tim Schone, VP-sports and entertainment marketing for A-B. "We've been investing in this huge event for years and years, so from a local standpoint, doing another Bud Bowl-type of promotion with 944 was just another great idea from a consumer-marketing standpoint."

Sprint Yellow Room
Sprint even hopes to increase adoption rates for its mobile-entertainment service by partnering with 944 for exclusive streaming content of footage from the official Sprint Yellow Room, where celebrities and athletes will be swinging by throughout the weekend for behind-the-scenes interviews. The content will be made available to all Sprint users with a mobile handset, giving the brand a national extension that goes beyond a local marketing stunt.

"We cast a wide net, but it allows us to reach a lot of people as well," said Sprint spokesman Dave Mellin. "As far as our customer base, we're really going after every demographic you can think of from teenagers up to senior citizens."

Naturally, all the expectation around the 944 Super Village has Mr. Lotenberg already plotting to duplicate the guns-a'blazing approach to event marketing in Tampa, Dallas and Miami for future Super Bowls. "Our goal is not to do this one time and walk away from it. We want to be known as producing the biggest and best Super Bowl," he said.
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