The Biz: Nick ramps up its kiddie Oscar effort

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Once again, it's slime time, and this year Nickelodeon and its brand partners are giving broader exposure and more marketing heft to a live televised event-the "17th Annual Kids' Choice Awards"-that's become the closest thing to a kiddie Oscars.

The kid cable network has linked with first-time awards-show sponsors Keebler, Reebok and Hasbro and returning partners Burger King and General Mills for programs that will hype the show on-air, online, on radio, in print and in malls, mass retailers and grocery stores. Co-branded promotions with sponsors will bring in retail giant Wal-Mart and girl fave Limited Too for show-specific contests.

Nickelodeon, in addition to heavy on-air, online and Nick magazine promotion, will buy billboards in key markets, print ads in Time Inc.'s Teen People, Gruner & Jahr USA's YM and other kid reads, and radio in the top 15 markets. Nick has primarily used its own media to tout the show in recent years. And, in another first, kids will be able to text their votes in the awards' 15 categories through a Nick alliance with mobile media company Mobliss. Voting will still take place online.

`hit it big'

"In every way, we've tried to make it bigger and fresher and more impactful," says Pam Kaufman, Nick's senior VP-marketing. "There's more exposure on every level."

Partners General Mills and Keebler will put Kids' Choice Awards graphics on some 5 million packages of cereal and cookies, with sweepstakes and a downloadable Nick blimp game attached.

Hasbro has created an "American Idol"-style contest called "Hit it Big with HitClips," where kids call a toll-free number and sing for 30 seconds. Though there's no Simon Cowell on the other end of the phone, there will be judges who weed through the entries. Finalists will be posted on the Web so kids can further narrow the field. The top three contestants have a chance to record a HitClip, be in a TV commercial and go to the Kids' Choice Awards. The toy company is cross-promoting with the mall-based Limited Too, giving away HitClips products from its Tiger Electronics division and trips to the awards show.

Reebok will use its first-time partnership to bring its advertising back to Nickelodeon after a three-year absence. Other than co-branded ads with retailers such as Foot Locker, Reebok hasn't aired a brand campaign on kid networks in several years. Reebok ads for the kid-skewing Classic Illuminate shoes will surround the show and air on Nick for the next several months leading to a full-scale back-to-school push for the new tween-girl-targeted Sweets line.

"We're reinvesting in kids, from a media standpoint," says Patricia Cho, Reebok's director-business development. "We haven't talked directly to the kid audience for a while."

the `orange carpet'

The sneaker giant created an online game that appears on, and will station itself prominently backstage and at the after party, where there will be Reebok-branded basketball and soccer areas. The marketer will supply shoes and apparel to celebrities, audience members and show employees, including the young Nick talent who will be interviewing stars as they arrive on the "orange carpet." Reebok athletes may show up as presenters.

The show this year features two celebrity hosts, Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz. Other celebs on the roster are Jennifer Lopez, Tony Hawk, Kirsten Dunst, Tobey Macguire and Adam Sandler. Outkast and Avril Lavigne will perform. It's still a well-guarded secret which celebrity will be slimed. (Past slime-ees include Tom Cruise and Sandler).

The show, which began as an interstitial campaign called "The Big Ballot" 17 years ago, is the best-rated Saturday night of the year for Nick. Last year, there were 4 million viewers, 2.5 million of them kids. It features such categories as favorite song, sports team, movie and television star, along with the annual Burp Award (Diaz is a former winner).

"In the early days, we gave away special awards and did taped acceptance speeches-anything to get celebrities to participate," says Cyma Zarghami, Nick's president. "Now, we have so many A-list people because they know how valuable the kid audience is."

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