The advertising community has criticized ESPN and its Web partner, Starwave Corp., for jacking up Web ad prices. ESPN charges advertisers $100,000 per quarter and $300,000 per year. Now, however, the criticism seems unwarranted.
"These guys [the new advertisers] are all paying the rate that everybody thinks is too high," said Rich LeFurgy, director of advertising at Starwave Corp., creator of ESPN's Web site. "These are major brands making a major commitment to the service."
Indeed, Levi Strauss bought more than one year of sponsorship of the ESPN site, said Tom Hagopian, ESPNet general manager. Gatorade earlier this year signed a one-year sponsorship deal.
Starwave attributes its success in signing advertisers to a unique "bridge" ad program under which the company will create content for the advertiser that resides on the SportsZone site but serves as a bridge to the advertiser's site.
"We're just a little farther along in how we're developing our packaging. The other guys [other Web media] are out there selling avails," Mr. LeFurgy said.
A Web-based survey done earlier this year found that 96% of SportsZone users are male, and 75% are between the ages of 18 and 34.
SportsZone offers a total of 25 ad sponsorships.