RadioShack Partnership Shoots the Moon

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RadioShack is ready to send brand sponsorship through the roof.

The electronics retailer will fund space exploration company LunaCorp and place its logo on a robotic rover that will go to the moon and scour the lunar surface in search of ice.

The IceBreaker moon rover mission is scheduled to launch by the end of 2003.

LunaCorp's mission is to confirm the existence of ice on the moon. Water would be the first crucial resource needed by lunar explorers to sustain a colony on the moon. If there is ice on the moon, LunaCorp believes the IceBreaker will find it.

While RadioShack's $1 million mission goes where no retailer has gone before, its motivation still hits close to home.

Video footage of the mission will provide the company with content to broadcast on its Web site and in digital entertainment centers at its retail stores.

To exploit the sponsorship, promote the footage and drive traffic to RadioShack's retail stores and Web site, the company will "throw everything at this, including the kitchen sink," said Jim McDonald, senior vice president of marketing and advertising at RadioShack Corp., Fort Worth, TX.

This includes Internet and television spots, newspaper inserts and direct mail campaigns that will go out to RadioShack's key customers, McDonald said.

"Anytime we do a sponsorship, we go after it with a holistic campaign," he said.

Consumers will be able to track the trek on the company's Web site or at RadioShack stores. By 2003, RadioShack retail outlets will be equipped to receive broadband video streams that will be filmed by digital cameras installed on the IceBreaker moon rover, McDonald said.

"Our sponsorship is about brand differentiation. We're trying to reposition ourselves as more than just [a vendor of] cable jacks and batteries," McDonald said.

"It's an unorthodox form of brand sponsorship," but funding the mission promotes a message that "resonates with our consumers," McDonald said.

By helping finance the expedition, which will cost an estimated $130 million, McDonald said RadioShack is investing in itself.

"We're investing in our future by supporting this. It's been highly motivational for our sales force," he said.

McDonald spoke with excitement about a speech former astronaut Buzz Aldrin gave for RadioShack sales representatives.

"It was a religious experience," he said.

RadioShack will spend about $1 million on the LunaCorp operations during 2000, according to David Gump, president of LunaCorp.

"They will spend more as time goes by, and they put us in front of their manufacturing partners," which include Microsoft, Compaq, Sprint and RCA, Gump said. LunaCorp hopes to gain additional funding from these manufacturers and by selling Internet and television rights to companies interested in broadcasting the space mission.

"Basically, RadioShack has broken the imagination barrier. They've provided the leadership to have other companies gather around," Gump said. But he admitted $1 million would fall far short of the moon.

"We need to put together a coalition of sponsors," he said.

LunaCorp has no plans to market the space mission to a targeted audience.

"Our corporate sponsors will look to us to connect them" to an audience that may be interested in the mission or willing to subsidize a portion of the hefty tab, said Gump.

If everything goes as planned and the IceBreaker lands on the moon in the winter of 2003, it will be the first time LunaCorp, which formed in 1989, will have launched a space mission, Gump said.

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