By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Coca-Cola Co.'s Powerade sports drink has signed a one-year agreement to become a sponsor of the Gravity Games, replacing PepsiCo's Mountain Dew
-- which fled to ESPN's rival X Games -- as the primary beverage sponsor.

The Gravity Games, a co-production between Emap USA and General Electric Co.'s NBC Sports, will be held Sept. 1-9 in Providence, R.I. NBC will televise events from the extreme sports games beginning Sept. 19 and continue airing segments for seven consecutive Sundays. In five of the seven telecasts, the Gravity Games will have the wildly popular NASCAR as a lead-in.

"In terms of drawing Powerade as a sponsor, the Gravity Games are the highest-rated sports action television program. It was a natural fit," said Stephanie Gray, vice president of marketing for Emap USA.

Extreme sports tie-in
When the inaugural Gravity Games kicked off three years ago, Pepsi put the game's logo on 400 million 20-ounce bottles of Mountain Dew, which has consistently used an "extreme sports" theme in its ads.

But when Mountain Dew crossed over to the X Games, the logical next move for the Gravity Games was to contact Pepsi's main rival. ESPN's X Games, televised live from Philadelphia, started airing Saturday and will run through Aug. 22.

In 1999, the first year of the Gravity Games, the event netted Emap about $12 million in ad revenue. Kevin O'Malley, president of Emap USA's sports division, said last year's ad revenues were at around the same level. Licensing fees, which Mr. O'Malley said were the fastest-growing revenue stream for the Gravity Games, contribute a lesser amount to Emap's bottom line.

The Powerade deal, which includes granting Coca-Cola concession rights during the games, presence on gravitygames.com and about 15 ad pages across Emap USA's stable of active sports titles, is valued between $1 million and $2.5 million, Mr. O'Malley said, adding that Coca-Cola products had not previously advertised in Emap titles.

Boost for publisher
That's good news for Emap USA's new owner, Primedia, which bought the company from U.K. publisher Emap PLC for $515 million. Emap took a near-billion-dollar bath on the sale of its titles; intent on expanding into the American market, Emap PLC had purchased Petersen Publishing and its portfolio of magazines for $1.5 billion in 1999.

The Gravity Games came from Petersen Publishing and its then chairman-CEO Jim Dunning's notion to buy up a host of active-sports related titles, such as Bike, Skateboarder and Surfer and launch an extreme-sports competition off their backs. After gauging ESPN's success with the X Games, NBC, looking to replace missing revenue after it lost the NFL, paired in 1999 with what was then Emap Petersen to create the Gravity Games. Ironically, Primedia CEO Tom Rogers was a former chairman of NBC Cable.

"These games were built from the organic core of our publications," Ms. Fray said. "At this point, although we are quote-unquote competitors with [ESPN], we're really helping each other grow the industry."

Separately, Coca-Cola on Aug. 14 unveils an estimated $40 million to $60 million blockbuster effort to promote a reformulated, vitamin-infused Powerade and a reduced-calorie Powerade Light with a three-spot campaign by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., is believed to show people with more energy after downing the vitamin-infused product.

Staff writers Jon Fine and Hillary Chura contributed to this report.

In this article:
Most Popular