Watching extreme kayaker Tao Berman descend the 500-foot, 65-degree Lacy Falls off Vancouver Island will be the undeniable draw for viewers of the May 22 episode of NBC's "Jeep World of Adventure Sports". Because Lacy Falls is not a straight vertical, the event will be a supreme test of the 23-year-old champion's technical skills. But executives at Chrysler Group's Jeep brand hope that some who tune in will find the journey to transport Berman, his gear and the camera crew to the remote British Columbia locale, at least as compelling as the ultimate event.
The brand's incorporation into the sports show is one of the fruits of a deal, announced late in 2003, between Jeep, its media-and-events marketing firm Aura360, and NBC, to bring an action-adventure sports series to the airwaves on Saturday afternoons. Each of the eight one-hour shows features extreme athletes engaged in daring activities. Jeep, which has a financial stake in the venture, is actively involved in shaping the show and its vehicles are also included in the content.
In the May 22 show, for instance, crew and athlete use a Rubicon, laden with kayaking gear and camera equipment, for the rugged, four-hour trek on Vancouver Island to Lacy Falls. During commercial breaks, five 30-second ads for Jeep will run. Promotions for the show include a cover wrap on Sports Illustrated magazine, sent to more than 2 million readers, that advertises a "Jeep World of Adventure Sports" sweepstakes and drives prospective participants to a Web site to sign up. Sweepstakes prizes include adventure experience trips to specific sports events as well as adventure gear.
The Chrysler Group has built a history of sports-related associations. This latest venture has Jeep serving as a "functional asset that enables athletes and adventurers to accomplish their goals",according to Rufus Frost, co-founder of Aura360. It aims at relevant product usage—not just having Jeep write a check as the show's sponsor. Contributing: Jean Halliday