Sony pursues difficult-to-reach college students

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Sony online Entertainment, armed with reorganized entertainment properties and expanded advertiser opportunities, is preparing a series of fall launches.

Launching this week is Sony's third fall tournament of College Jeopardy! Online with new marquee advertisers AT&T Corp., IBM Corp. and Citibank.

"We'll continue to enhance the products and add new products in the months to come," said Chris Tice, Sony Online Entertainment VP-advertising and partnership marketing; she would not reveal future additions.

Sony and its advertisers are using the game to target the difficult-to-reach college market.

Jim Nail, analyst at Forrester Research, said the college market has always been a particularly hard one to reach, whether online or through traditional means.

LITTLE TV, PRINT

"The fundamental thing is they're not heavy TV watchers. These days, none of them seems to read print much anymore. And they're hard to reach through direct marketing because they're always moving dorm rooms," he said. However, online marketing may be promising because students generally have computers in their dorm rooms and access on campus, Mr. Nail said.

AT&T plans to promote its AT&T Student Advantage Card, a combined long-distance calling and student discount card. College Jeopardy! Online is creating a promotion offering free Sony products as an incentive to register for the card.

IBM is using the tournament to launch its e-culture campaign using a Sony-created clickable news ticker that features a running roster of high scorers along with IBM messages.

Citibank is partnering with Sony online and offline. Citibank's deal includes on-campus tables to promote sign-ups for its credit card with an instant scratch-and-win Sony promotion plus an online area on College Jeopardy!.

100,000 USERS EXPECTED

Sony expects about 100,000 registered users during College Jeopardy! Online's 10-week run, Ms. Tice said.

Sony is marketing the tournament with online and offline advertising, and a publicity campaign in college, consumer and trade media. Ad spending was not disclosed.

The College Jeopardy! launch follows six months of reorganizing during which Sony Online Entertainment has nearly doubled its staff, including the addition of five executives to the ad sales and marketing teams.

Now under the Sony Online Entertainment umbrella is online gaming and entertainment site TheStation@sony.com (station.sony.com), which distributes content from Sony Pictures Entertainment, 989 Studios (previously named Sony Interactive Studios America) and third-party developers.

Sony Online Entertainment also recently switched from proprietary ad-management software systems to Engage Technologies' Accipiter. All three Sony Online Entertainment units have the same ad management.

"We're really selling now as a true network," Ms. Tice said.

Copyright September 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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