Fox Sports specialty: product 'immersion'

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Fox Sports Net is in the product-placement driver's seat once again, and it's got two brand new passengers. "The Best Damn Sports Show Period," which recently embarked on a partnership with Labatt USA, now also has Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln Aviator. The SUV brand will make its debut during the show's "Road to the Super Bowl" week. And an extreme-sports lifestyle program, "54321," that premieres Jan. 27, has signed Snapple. The cable network is so wrapped up in mixing products into content that they have a new name for it: "immersion."

`part of the show'

"What we are doing is really immersing products into programs," said Guy Sousa, exec VP-advertising sales at Fox Cable Sports," so that they really feel like it is part of the show."

"The Best Damn Sport Show Period," which has sets that are casual hangouts for guests and hosts, and features a bar decked out with kegs spouts, neon signs and other signage that will carry three Labatt brands names: Rolling Rock, Labatt Blue and Dos Equis. The hosts banter on the set, but abstain from drinking product. It's a good thing, because hosts Michael Irvin and Tony Siragusa, during Super Bowl week will also be driving Lincoln Aviators, a new advertiser for Fox.

The Aviator will make a prelaunch appearance in the show as the official vehicle of the Road to the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the ad buy will be for Lincoln's full-size Navigator SUV. Bob Witter, promotions and events manager for Lincoln, said the marketer will have an on-going presence on Fox Sports through 2003. He would not disclose details or spending. And in a moment of pure brand cross-pollination, the Labatt mascot bear is expected to hitch a ride in the car.

Labatt and Aviator are the only sponsors of the show. "We felt that we could only immerse two products," Mr. Sousa said. "We have a good fit here. They're not in conflict with each other."

"54321" will run at 5 p.m. weekdays beginning Jan. 27, and is the network's first foray into extreme sports-surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX and freestyle. The format is similar to MTV's "Cribs" and will feature the homes and hangouts of extreme-sports stars. Surf clothing brand Quiksilver, which has its own entertainment division, gets a producer credit on the show.

"This is more challenging," Mr. Sousa said. "Because the 12- to 24-year-old viewers are more savvy and skeptical, so we are being extremely careful about immersing product into this program that feels correct and natural."

The hosts and guests will drink Snapple, and the company's sun logo will appear as a set backdrop. One segment of the show, sponsored by Snapple, is called "Snapshots," and will feature video clips submitted by viewers.

Extreme sports are usually associated with high-caffeine sodas and energy drinks. Snapple wants to be the "in between sports" drink.

"Even though we may not be the drink that they will guzzle before they do a 360," said Lewis Goldstein, director-relationship marketing, Snapple, "we are a part of their lives when they are goofing with their friends, having fun, laughing, smiling, just hanging out."

contributing: jean halliday

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