Versus’s Cup Runneth Over

Sports
network Versus is padding up with online and affiliate promotions surrounding
the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin Wednesday, April 11.

“We
wanted to find a really special way to treat it that was on-brand and yet
really capture what was great about hockey, about sports and about
playoffs,” said senior vice president of marketing and promotion Bill
Bergofin.

The
network has already begun airing a series of commercial spots tagged “Do
or Die,” featuring great Stanley Cup moments. There will be 14 spots in
total, airing for the duration of the playoffs. Further support comes with 15
video clips to be posted on the network’s “Defining Moments”
microsite, set to appear at Versus.com in time for the first playoff game.

On the
affiliate-marketing end, the network is offering the chance to co-brand with
the NHL and Versus while plugging advanced services. The opportunity centers on
an online sweepstakes and instant win game, beginning May 1. The grand prize
for the sweepstakes includes a 2007 Dodge Nitro, trips to the 2008 Stanley Cup
Finals and All-Star Game and season tickets to the winner’s favorite team.
Instant-win prizes range from signed NHL merchandise to game tickets.

“What
we did for marketing affiliates [is] we’re producing customizable product
spots,” said Versus affiliate marketing

director Dana DeSanto. “So
they’ll get a high-speed spot from us to promote their high-speed services
along with The Player [broadband channel] on Versus.com. We’re also giving them
DVR spots, Versus HD spots if they carry HD, and we’re also giving them
on-demand spots.”

Participating
affiliates include Cablevision, Comcast, Cox Communications, Insight
Communications, Mediacom Communications, RCN and Time Warner Cable, among
others, reaching out to roughly 20 million subscribers.

“We
also are doing some fun stuff going where the fans are,” Bergofin added.
“We’re going to sports bars in 10 markets, with coasters and posters in
bathrooms.” They are:
Buffalo,
N.Y.;
Dallas;
Detroit;
Minneapolis;
Pittsburgh;
Raleigh-Durham,

N.C.;
Tampa,
Fla.;
Boston;
Denver;
Philadelphia; and

New York.

The
network will send out 18-wheeler semi trucks to the home markets of the top
six-seeded teams, wrapped with “NHL Playoffs on Versus” messaging.

Finally,
actual water coolers will be delivered to media and cable companies, with each
wrapped in an NHL promotion, picturing the Stanley Cup against a slogan such
as, “It only weighs 35 pounds, but it takes 20 men to lift it,” or
“Lift this jug above your head and pass it to your co-workers.”

Versus
plans to package playoff action for on-demand viewing, beginning mid- to
late-April. This will also mark the first time all national games on cable are
available in high definition.

Versus
holds NHL rights through the 2008-09 season. The league’s other

television partners include NBC in
the U.S., TSN and NHL Network in Canada, and North American Sports Network in
Europe.

The
league recently launched through NHL.com a fan-focused, digital playoff game
titled “Quest for the Cup,” which encourages users to compete during
the playoffs for a trip to next year’s NHL season-opening games.
“Quest” participants can earn points through several integrated media
touch points, including watch-and-win on NHL broadcasts, SMS messaging on wireless
carriers, visits to designated partner Web sites and digital treasure hunts.

“‘Quest
For The Cup’ is another NHL initiative that will take advantage of the fact
that our fans are extremely tech-savvy and will engage them on multiple levels
throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs,” said NHL Enterprises president Ed
Horne.

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