'SPORTING NEWS' PUMPS $30 MIL INTO REDESIGN, ADS: TIMES MIRROR FACES FIERCER COMPETITION IN CATEGORY

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Competition for the male sports fan will be fierce in 1998, and Times Mirror Magazines' 112-year-old Sporting News is determined not to be left on the sidelines.

On Dec. 8, the weekly will unveil a new look, part of President James Nuckols' plan kicked off with an investment of $500,000 in extensive brand research. Cost of the redesign and a supporting ad campaign will be $30 million over three years, said VP-Sales Jay Burzon.

Based upon the research, Sporting News executives are repositioning the title-for both readers and advertisers-as the sports information source that gives readers a deeper perspective.

GROWTH POTENTIAL

Senior VP-Publisher Francis Farrell said Times Mirror Chairman-CEO Mark Willes sees The Sporting News as one of the Times Mirror titles with growth potential and approved the multimillion-dollar investment in research and the redesign.

The publication needs to battle some perceptions in the market that it's old-fashioned and less exciting than cable's ESPN.

ESPN is launching an every-other-weekly in March, and Petersen Publishing has revamped its monthly Sport with the October issue (see related story below).

Research about awareness of sports news brands found The Sporting News had a 78% awareness among the 1,438 men polled, while Time Warner's Sports Illustrated had 100% awareness, ESPN 97% and Gannett Co.'s USA Today 88%.

TRUSTED, QUALITY INFORMATION

In its favor, research also showed The Sporting News was a trusted source of information and that the information was of high quality.

The new look includes color throughout each issue and an upgrade of paper stock. A prototype looks and feels closer to The New York Times Sunday Magazine than the current newsprint tabloid.

"As long as they keep to their current position of providing lots of information for each team, they will continue to work for us," said Kevin Densmore, media supervisor at Campbell-Ewald, Los Angeles. "If they are able to provide more than that, that's even better."

Research also revealed readers wanted more information about their local teams and more trend statistics. The redesign includes more clearly organized local-team information, with a stat box under each summary.

In addition to coverage of the four key league sports-football, basketball, baseball and hockey-the publication will cover the Olympics in the future.

The redesigned Sporting News will be introduced to consumers with a campaign from Christy MacDougall Mitchell, New York, using the tagline, "See a different game."

Print, TV and radio break in December. The print portion will run through March, while radio and TV spots will air throughout 1998.

MAKING HEROES OF FANS

"It's advertising that makes heroes of the fans," said Mal MacDougall, chief creative officer at the agency. "They see a different game because of the in-depth news that they get from The Sporting News."

Times Mirror is looking to boost circulation at The Sporting News by increasing the brand's awareness among younger readers through sampling programs in college

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