It's implementing the brand-building plan as it braces for new competitors bearing well-known sports names: ESPN Zone, a chain of restaurants/arcades being launched this summer, and a National Basketball Association enterprise now in development.
SUPER BOWL TIE-IN
All-Star Cafe kicked off its events plan in San Diego with an effort pegged to Super Bowl XXXII.
The Official All-Star Cafe Sports & Music Festival will next piggyback on the National Football League's Pro Bowl in Hawaii and the NBA All-Star Game in New York, both in February.
Blending sports and music, each event will have a theme developed around the region or celebrities involved. Next month's NBA All-Star Game event will be built around All-Star Cafe partner Shaquille O'Neal.
"Just as Planet Hollywood has integrated itself into the culture of Hollywood, we're now integrating All-Star Cafe into the culture of sport," said founder and CEO Robert Earl.
LIKE HOUSE OF BLUES' STRATEGY
This presence marketing is similar to the strategy devised by House of Blues, which created temporary venues at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the past two Super Bowls.
Originally called ESPN Grill, ESPN Zone was renamed "because the further we got into the process, we realized we had a concept that's much larger than what `grill' connotes," said Scott Dickey, director of sales and marketing for Walt Disney Co.'s Disney Regional Entertainment.
Mr. Dickey says ESPN Zone will be "an experience," with TV and radio remote capabilities, interactive games and a screening room.
More than 20 locations are planned to open by 2003, with sites in New York and Chicago slated for next year.
Instead of aping its rival's approach of rallying around nationally known celebrity athletes and events, ESPN Zone will think locally.
"We want to integrate ourselves in each market's sports culture," said Mr. Dickey. "Everyone knows Shaq. But in L.A., Laker fans may like Eddie Jones just as much. We're about attracting the local fans who love the Eddie Joneses as much as the Shaqs."
All-Star Cafe's Mr. Earl said the themed restaurants can co-exist as long as they are positioned differently. He also isn't sweating the NBA's plans to create restaurants, most of which will be based in foreign markets so as to give the league a physical presence there.
"Building around one sport is too narrow," said Mr. Earl. "Brands like ours or ESPN's are better positioned because we encompass the whole world of sport."