Super Bowl

IBM scores a virtual Super Bowl shut-out

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On TV, nearly 30 advertisers will have to share Fox's broadcast of Super Bowl XXXI on Jan. 26. But on the Web, IBM Corp. and scant few others will have the game all to themselves.

House of Blues, the National Pork Producers Council and Oscar Mayer are capitalizing on Super Bowl hype by putting related content on their respective sites this week. But marketing oddsmakers say Web surfing pigskin fans will undoubtedly spend most of their time on Sunday parked at http://www.superbowl.com, a site produced jointly by the National Football League and Starwave Corp., supported by Fox and sponsored exclusively by IBM Corp.

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$1 MILLION DEAL?

Last year, Superbowl.com was produced by the NFL and NBC. Microsoft Corp. paid a record $225,000 to be the title sponsor of the site, but NBC and the NFL also sold sponsorships to nine other advertisers, including Visa USA and MCI Communications Corp., charging between $100,000 and $200,000.

This year, IBM bought exclusivity on the site, in what many claim is the biggest single Web sponsorship ever. Based on revenues generated from last year's Super-bowl.com advertisers, IBM's sole sponsorship could be worth as much as $1 million.

"We tried to give a single sponsor a single, focused message," said Ann Kirschner, VP-programming/new media development at NFL Enterprises.

"It comes as close to custom publishing as anything we've ever done," said Rich LeFurgy, Starwave's VP-advertising and marketing, who believes more high-profile sites tied to events will do single sponsorship deals.

The hope is that Net-savvy fans will keep one eye on the Fox broadcast and the other on the Superbowl.com site during the game.

The site will offer extensive statistical data about the teams, a history of the Super Bowl and audio play-by-play of the game.

SPRINT INVOLVED

Sprint, the official telecommunications sponsor of the NFL, will provide back-end equipment for the site. While it will not develop content nor create a Super Bowl area on its site, Sprint will link back and forth from its home page to Superbowl.com.

The Super Bowl advertisers on Fox's broadcast that are extending their marketing to the Web will also compete against Super-bowl.com for visits. On the day of the game, Oscar Mayer, which will sponsor the Super Bowl Halftime Show, will turn its home page into a Super Bowl XXXI scoreboard, updating results by the minute. Throughout this week, the site will offer a daily quiz about the Super Bowl teams (Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots).

While Oscar Mayer can't link to Superbowl.com like it did last year because of IBM's exclusive sponsorship, NFL executives say they have consulted with the league sponsor on its Web site and endorse it.

But NFL executives haven't seen what House of Blues has up its sleeve, and wouldn't comment on whether they endorse the Web activities of the entertainment company, even if it is helping Radio City Music Hall and Select Productions produce the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

HOB today launches http://www.nawlins.hob.com., co-sponsored by Sun Microsystems and Java Joint. Leading up to Sunday, visitors can access articles about the culture of New Orleans or discuss Super Bowl issues via a message board called "The Mojo Board." The "Voodoo Bowl" is an interactive Java-based game, while "Charm Shops" offers other games and digital postcards. After the game, the site will cybercast a live Neville Brothers concert.

A PORK SITE

Elsewhere, the National Pork Producers' Council, a broadcast advertiser, is offering Super Bowl snack recipes on its Web site at http://www.nppc.org along with recipes for three of the pork dishes that are being shown on the company's TV commercial during the Super Bowl broadcast.

Contributing: Kim Cleland and Judann Pollack.

Copyright January 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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