Wendy's, ESPN ink promo

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Wendy's International is partnering with Walt Disney Cos.' ESPN for a co-branded, cross-platform promotion deal that turns accomplished athletes into aspiring anchors.

Called ESPN's "Road to Bristol," the six-week promotion follows three former pro athletes-National Football League Hall of Famer Art Donovan, X Games Bicycle medalist Dave Mirra and Kentucky Derby winning jockey Jorge Chavez-in a cross-country trek to audition for a spot as the newest anchor on ESPN's "SportsCenter." They travel from Wendy's hometown Dublin, Ohio, to ESPN's Bristol, Conn., studios, stopping for burgers along the way.

ESPN created the storyline and loaned out its roster agency BaylessCronin, Atlanta, to develop dedicated creative for each of its media brands, including a 60-second and three 30-second TV spots, radio spots and live talk on the "Mike and Mike Show," along with two print ads. ESPN also created an online contest in-house for viewers to cast their votes for the next anchor, with chances to win prizes including Wendy's food. Print breaks April 16 with a three-page gatefold ad in the April 28 ESPN The Magazine; TV breaks April 21 across ESPN's four TV networks, ESPN Radio and ESPN.com. Wendy's agency Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, acted as a liaison for Wendy's.


"This goes far beyond any cross-platform vehicle we've done," said Don Calhoon, Wendy's exec VP-marketing, who said the deal started as part of the company's upfront negotiations last year with ESPN, estimated at $12 million. Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN/ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales, noted that the effort is the most extensive ESPN has ever undertaken with a marketer.

In the TV spots, the three anchor wannabes practice their on-air delivery and sign-offs as they travel to their audition. One says, "Single with cheese" in his best anchor voice as he sits at the Wendy's pickup window. The final installment shows the three entering the ESPN lot. Whether any of them actually wins a seat at the anchor desk will be a secret. While Wendy's said it paid $2 million to $3 million for production and media, neither company would specify the total media value. Mr. Erhardt called the package "significant"; it includes future buys on "Monday Night Football" and "SportsCenter."

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