Miller inks prime deal with ABC and ESPN

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Miller Brewing Co. has struck a $60 million, two-year TV sports programming deal with ABC and ESPN, which includes title sponsorship of ESPN's high-rated "NFL PrimeTime" highlight show.

Miller also gets advertising time in a number of ABC and ESPN shows, including ESPN's "Sunday Night Football," ESPN cable networks ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic and ESPNEWS. In addition, the brewer gets ad exposure both on ESPN.com and in ESPN the Magazine.

The package does not include ad time on ABC's "Monday Night Football." The marketer buys local spots during the broadcast.

For Miller, the crown jewel is the title sponsorship on "NFL PrimeTime," a big-rated show pulling a 4.08 Nielsen rating and averaging more than 3 million viewers. It will now be known as "NFL PrimeTime Presented by Miller Lite." The rechristened show premieres Sept. 3.

"There really weren't any other presenting sponsorships available," said Steve Buerger, group director, media and event marketing at Miller. "It separates us from what other beers are doing. It's been quite a while since this kind of opportunity has been available to do us." Mr. Buerger said Miller Lite has been the key brand for all Miller's TV football activities.

Edward Erhardt, president-customer marketing and sales, ESPN/ABC Sports, said this is the first time ESPN has sold a presenting sponsorship for the show. "It gives Miller more equity with us," he added. "The deal is more than just media dollars. It creates buzz for Miller and around the show."

DISTRIBUTOR PRESSURE

In recent years Miller has been under pressure from distributors to improve the quality of its commercial work, particularly for Lite. An executive close to Lite indicated agency of record Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, would be revving up its production schedule for Lite. However it's uncertain what creative the brewer will run on ESPN.

Ad spending for the brand rose in the first five months of this year 29% to $42.5 million, its highest point since 1998's $48.5 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

As part of the deal, Miller and ABC have created a sweepstakes, dubbed "You Could Go All the Way." Each week in September and October, fans can win tickets and trips to January's Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Fla.

"You Could Go All the Way" is a turn on a phrase originally popularized by the late Howard Cosell, ABC's legendary "Monday Night Football" sportscaster. In homage to Mr. Cosell, the line has been used as a trademark quip in recent years by Chris Berman, sportscaster for both ABC and ESPN, who is co-host of "NFL PrimeTime."

INSIDE TRACK

Miller had the inside track on "NFL PrimeTime" since the brewer has a leaguewide, seasonlong NFL sponsorship deal, as well as a Super Bowl sponsorship deal.

Miller is a longtime sponsor in a variety of ABC and ESPN sports programming, including college football and basketball, motor and outdoor sports, bowling and boxing. Miller also owns the title sponsorship of ESPN2's popular "Friday Night Fights."

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