Sponsors Webisodes and Documentary of Rising Star Shaun White

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LOS ANGELES -- Target appears to have hit the bull's-eye in its effort to reach a broader segment of the lucrative youth market by sponsoring Shaun White, a rising board sports star considered by many to be the next Tony Hawk.
Target is selling the DVD documentary entitled 'The Shaun White Album.'

Earlier this year, the giant retailer signed the 17-year-old professional skateboarder and snowboarder to star in his own Web-based reality series. Now the Minneapolis-based company is preparing to release a DVD documentary of Mr. White's life, and is hoping that the Webisodes will help boost sales.

'Future Boy'

Already a legend among board riders, the Carlsbad, Calif.-native goes by the nickname "Future Boy." Along with Target, Mr. White has sponsorship deals with Adio Footwear, Burton, Volcom, Oakley, PlayStation 2, Mountain Dew, T-Mobile and Birdhouse Skateboards. His annual take for such endorsement activities is reportedly near $1 million.

While Target has been sponsoring Mr. White for some time, it had not included him in its advertising programs until the Webisode deal.

And that branded entertainment strategy has had more than a little of the unorthodox about it. For instance, filmed segments include animated creatures such as a vomiting bug -- not your normal sort of mainstream retailing icon.

Target's insights

But industry observers laud Target's courage as well as its insights into the kinds of celebrities that matter to large segments of the youth market.

"It's definitely gives Target a cooler image and puts them more in touch with the younger generation," says Susie Floros, associate editor of Snowboarder magazine, that has followed White's career. "They should have done it sooner. Shaun is amazing. He's extremely well liked. All the kids love him. He's a great role model."

The quirky seven-episode Web-based series, which was launched around the X Games in
Target is selling the DVD documentary entitled 'The Shaun White Album.'

August, features a behind-the-scenes look at Mr. White's life, with the skinny, hyperactive kid with freckles and a shock of red hair appearing in three- to five-minute installments.

The entire project couldn't appear more indie and less associated with traditional corporate campaigns if it tried: Produced with a skeleton crew and a limited budget of less than several hundred thousand dollars, footage was shot on mini-DV and Beta, giving it an edgy look. Music was supplied by mostly unknown bands living in Minneapolis. Frisky graphics, including the notorious bug, were created by an art student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Target connection downplayed

Unlike other Web films from BMW and Abercrombie & Fitch, the White series does not loudly trumpet its ties to Target. In fact, the connection is downplayed and featured with only a few mentions and a few Target bull's-eye symbols dotted through the programming and on the series' Web site,

The marketer took a guerilla approach to introducing and promoting the series, launching to air the episodes but never linking it to

To attract visitors, the retailer handed out 8,000 CD-ROMs at the X Games in Los Angeles with Mr. White's name written across the discs with a Sharpie pen. A banner ad also appeared on online networking site that sent its users to Mr. White's site. It counted on word-of-mouth to attract yet more people.

The strategy worked.

Of those who received the CD-ROM, 5,000 people logged on to their computers to check out the show by the end of the weekend.

Mr. White's series still has two more Webisodes to air online. But while
Target is selling the DVD documentary entitled 'The Shaun White Album.'

the series has enabled fans to get to know Mr. White in a new way, and Target to interact with them, what the athlete and the retailer really want is the project to help sell DVDs -- a big business for the retailer.

DVD documentary film

Mr. White stars in The Shaun White Album, a straight-to-DVD documentary film featuring Mr. White's lifestyle, sports achievements and performance footage, as well as interviews with other pros such as Mr. Hawk, Danny Kass and Travis Rice. The title will hit store shelves and be available online Nov. 16.

Cinemaseoane, a leading action sports lifestyle production company, based in Reno, Nev., produced the film.

As part of its relationship with Mr. White, Target will be the only non-board-sports retailer that can sell the DVD until February. But Target will also produce an exclusive edition of the DVD that includes three episodes of the Web series packaged as extras.

For the DVD launch, an episode of the series played on TV screens inside the electronics sections of Target stores throughout October, with Mr. White appearing at the end to let consumers know about the upcoming DVD.

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Creative Credits Behind Shaun White: Agency: Peterson Milla Hooks, Minneapolis; creative director, Dave Peterson; executive producer, Gary Tassone; art director, David Richardson; copywriter, Nate Morley; account executive, Ken Barlage; editor, Josh Thacker (Fischer Edit); music, Daron Walker (Modern Music); artist, Caleb Coppock; character voices, Brian Slater (Fischer Edit).
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