INTERACTIVE;SPORTS SPONSORSHIPS ARE FINDING WEB TIE-INS;LEAGUES, MARKETERS EXTEND ENDORSEMENT VALUE TO SITES

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Big-league sports are pushing to popularize event sponsorship on the World Wide Web.

The National Basketball Association last week opened an area of its Web site tied to the 1996 All-Star Game, on the heels of the National Hockey League's own All-Star Game Web promotion and the National Football League's www.superbowl.com.

Even Sports Illustrated is horning in on the action, with a swimsuit issue promotion on the Time Inc. Pathfinder site (http://pathfinder.com) that drew three sponsors paying $25,000 each.

Each entity claims its promotion will drive additional traffic to the site.

RECEPTIVE ADVERTISERS

So far, advertisers have been receptive. Longtime NBA sponsor Schick Shaving Products Group paid an undisclosed fee to underwrite the "Rookie Report," featuring content about NBA rookies and the Schick Rookie Game, an All-Star Weekend event.

"Schick's marketing platform is rooted in reaching young adult shavers 16 to 24. That's the perfect Internet audience," said David Schreff, president, marketing and media group, NBA Properties.

The NHL inked IBM Corp. to sponsor All-Star Game-related activities on its Web site (http://www.nhl.com) during the Jan. 19-21 weekend. And the NFL partnered with NBC and Microsoft Corp. to create the Super Bowl site. Interactive Media Sales, Hermosa Beach, Calif., sold a $225,000 title sponsorship to Microsoft and packages priced at 4 cents per impression to other marketers, including Cathay Pacific Airways and Visa USA.

"It's a real crap shoot with these initial event-oriented sites ... because there's no track record," said Josh Bernoff, senior analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass. "If they charge based on traffic, then you pay for what you get. But if it's a fixed price, it's a gamble."

NBA's All-Star Weekend section features a multimedia gallery of players and past All-Star Games, with video, audio and photos that can be downloaded (http://www.nba.com). It will roll out in the weeks leading up the Feb. 11 game.

`KEEP TRAFFIC HIGH'

"Our philosophy with our Web site, and more so with this section, is to roll out our content over a period of time and update and change it every day. That way, we keep people coming back every day and keep traffic high," said Jamie Rosenberg, manager-interactive programming, NBA Properties, New York.

NBA Jam Session sponsors like AT&T and Nestle Chocolate and Confections get online plugs as part of their sponsorships.

The league also struck a deal with the San Antonio Express-News to post All-Star Game-related articles.

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