BOWLING ATTRACTS MASTERCARD, IBM STRIKE TEN DEALS WILL RESULT IN AFFINITY CARD, WEB SITE

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Strike Ten Entertainment, the recently formed centralized marketing arm of the $10 billion bowling industry, is starting to score strikes with sponsors, signing MasterCard International to a multiyear marketing alliance and snaring IBM Corp. to build a Web site for the sport.

MasterCard and IBM follow on the heels of Anheuser-Busch, which earlier this month announced a three-year pact with Strike Ten, reportedly worth $15 million.

BACKING BOWLING EVENTS

Terms with MasterCard and IBM weren't disclosed; the deals commit sponsors to back, with media and promotions, various events and TV projects handled by Strike Ten, including the Ladies Professional Bowlers Tour.

MasterCard also is teaming with First USA to produce a co-branded affinity card. The Strike Ten MasterCard will be made available at affiliated bowling centers and via a direct-mail effort to members of the American Bowling Congress and the Women's International Bowling Congress.

IBM, in talks to become a Strike Ten marketing partner, has committed to build a Web site at www.bowl.com; it will sell Strike Ten-licensed merchandise and tickets to major tournaments.

A deal in telecommunications is being negotiated, said Steve Ryan, Strike Ten's president-CEO. Other targeted categories include foods and soft drinks.

Mr. Ryan said Strike Ten is also in talks with a New York-based ad agency, as well as its sister sports-marketing agency, to help repackage the Ladies Professional Bowlers Tour. If a formal relationship is struck, the agencies would assist in positioning, sponsorship sales and TV negotiations.

TOP PARTICIPATION SPORT

Bowling can boast of being the U.S.' top participation sport, with a reported 54 million people taking to the lanes. But the sport took a public relations hit recently with ABC ending its longtime broadcast relationship with the Professional Bowlers Association of America.

The PBA, represented by the Marquee Group, New York, and not a Strike Ten member, has since relocated to CBS. ESPN also is a PBA broadcaster.

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