Kool tries card-playing promo

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Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.'s flagship brand has a new promotion, the "Play on the House Spades Slam" card tournament, aimed at Kool's urban franchise. The 16-city tour begins Oct. 2 in Baltimore and will travel to adult-only venues in other metro markets throughout the fall.

"Our multicultural audience loves playing cards," said Elicia Newcom Gregory, assistant brand manager for Kool. "Once we found out [through consumer research] that this is a key lifestyle activity for our audience, we knew it was something we had to tap into."

The tournament culminates with a national final at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas on Dec. 7. The 16 finalists-two-member teams playing the card game Spades-will get a two-night hotel stay and $5,000 in spending money from B&W. The grand prize is $50,000.

Cordiant Communications Group's Bates Worldwide, New York, handles Kool advertising and the promotion.

"Play on the House" will be promoted via ads in magazines including Urban Latino, Essence Communications' Essence, Conde Nast's GQ, Vanguarde Media's Honey, and Dennis Publishing's Maxim, through direct mail and at retail by offering a free deck of playing cards with a pack of Kool.

Kool is B&W's highest-share premium brand. The No. 3 cigarette-maker has changed the smoke's packaging twice and the ad campaign three times since 1997, and runs other urban-targeted programs for Kool.

"[B&W is] getting more and more focused on the brands that matter, and Kool obviously is extremely important to them," said David Adelman, an analyst at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, who said the card tournament is "creative in that it's not just price-based," a favorite tactic of tobacco marketers today.

Although Kool still falls well behind the menthol segment leader, Lorillard Tobacco Co.'s Newport, it stabilized a four-decade share decline last year, with the help of the "House of Menthol" ad campaign launched in 2000.

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