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Events are the next frontier for Discovery Channel as it creates new integrated marketing opportunities for sponsors of its programs.

The cable network and sponsors deemed an eight-city shopping mall tour promoting the recent Eco-Challenge endurance race so successful that a bigger tour is planned for next year, going beyond shopping malls.

Discovery Channel also is scouting additional ways to use events, said Bill McGowan, senior VP-advertising and sales for Discovery Networks, parent of Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.

"We'll be using events in unique ways in the future to capture additional advertising dollars, now that we've seen how it can work," Mr. McGowan said.

American Isuzu Motors, MasterCard International and Qantas Airways were primary sponsors of the mall tour, Discovery Channel's first-ever tour specifically promoting one telecast.


A total of 400,000 consumers got a chance to try rope climbing, rock climbing and meet the endurance athletes from the annual Eco-Challenge. The sponsors promoted their products at each mall stop with on-site signage; they also advertised on last month's Eco-Challenge telecast.

MasterCard culled from the Eco-Challenge its first-ever TV spot derived from an event. McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, created a 30-second commercial using footage provided by Discovery Channel.

The next Eco-Challenge, airing in spring 1999, will be promoted by a tour in as many as 10 U.S. cities with several major sponsors, Mr. McGowan said. MasterCard has committed to a multiyear sponsorship with a heightened presence at each tour stop.

Mr. McGowan also is making event plans for Animal Planet. For the inaugural Animal Planet National Dog Championships in March 1999, he's working on an aggressive series of integrated marketing tie-ins and events for advertisers and event sponsors.

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