As themes go, it’s damn near Pavlovian. Three notes sound, then repeat — “dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah” — and if you’re of a certain bent, say, a male between the ages of 18 and 34, the next hour of your life will be given over to a farrago of bone-splintering hits, tape-measure home runs and the kind of dunks that call into question Sir Isaac Newton’s apple tree epiphany. This is SportsCenter. Nobody does sports quite like ESPN; moreover, there’s not a network on your cable dial that can lay a glove on ESPN’s masterful marketing scheme. At last year’s CTAM confab, the early-morning crowd packed into Boston’s Hynes Convention Center gave SportsCenter anchor Dan Patrick a standing O when he accepted the association’s Hall of Fame award on behalf of his employer. Chalk it up to the power of the brand or the clubby atmosphere promoted by the Wieden & Kennedy spots, but know this: People generally don’t cheer for ad campaigns, no matter how fantastic, and especially not before 9 in the morning. If ESPN’s next big promotion doesn’t have one lucky winner leaping from his seat, it’ll be because the luxury of said seat might outweigh the impetus to actually extract oneself from it. According to Gary Perrelli, ESPN’s VP of affiliate advertising sales/new business, the network will transform each room of a contestant’s home into “a football destination.” As part of its 2003 NFL campaign (“ESPN: Bring the Football Home”), ESPN will hand over a pair of Zone Throne recliners — picture a couple of La-Z-Boys pumped up on anabolic steroids and tricked out with a set of mitt-size stereo speakers — along with a large-screen plasma HDTV, a DVD player and a standard-definition TV for every room in the house. “This is clearly our flagship promotion,” Perrelli says. “We’ve done one every year going back to 1987, when we signed our first NFL contract. This year will be the biggest and best ever.” In addition to piquing consumer interest, the football promotion (ESPN doesn’t co-brand the annual campaign with NFL marks and logos) allows affiliates the greatest amount of flexibility with which to sell the spots. “We offer two versions of the spot,” Perrelli says. “There’s a spot that tells people how they can register for the contest and, from a marketing perspective, a spot that lets the affiliates pitch additional services.” For example, a customer may be encouraged to upgrade to digital cable, and in so doing, is automatically enrolled in the contest. The spots, which are presently in development, will air throughout the month of October, when the pro football season really begins to heat up. Furthermore, banner ads promoting the contest will likely run on ESPN.com, Perrelli says. Both comScore Media Matrix and Nielsen Media Research rank ESPN.com as the No. 1 online sports site, tracking between 12 million and 18 million unique users per month. Although Perrelli says that the grand prize includes an appearance by one or more ESPN commentators at the winner’s home, no personalities have been named as yet. “We would love to have a Chris Berman show up but it’s too early at this stage,” he says. Oh, and fellas, here’s one thing you may want to keep in mind before you sign up for the Bring the Football Home contest. Should you actually win, there’s a good chance your wife may leave you. The Zone Thrones don’t exactly meet everyone’s Feng Shui requirements. “They’re huge,” Perrelli laughs. “They could lead to some domestic disharmony. But we think it’s worth the risk.”

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