Sandbox.com's Not Playing Around

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Sandbox.com, one of the Web's top sites in terms of traffic, has stepped up its marketing and e-commerce efforts this month in an attempt to retain its 2.3 million members and attract a flock of new members in 2000.


Earlier this week, the site, which has a variety of fantasy sports and simulated stock market games, announced it hired the Martin Agency, Richmond, VA, to handle its future marketing endeavors.


The site established its Internet presence this year despite next to no advertising, generating as much as 76.9 minutes per month per user, according to Media Metrix/Goldman Sachs (August 1999). It generated 778,000 unique visitors for November, according to Media Metrix.


The popularity of the site helped boost click-through rates to 1.7 percent vs. the .5 percent industry standard, according to Bill Carey, COO of Sandbox.com, Reston, VA.


"We're like a radio station. We want to keep people as long as possible and show them as many ads as possible. The more people and the longer stay, the more we can charge advertisers," said Carey.


Although details of its first-quarter campaign have not been finalized, a major advertising launch will accompany the site's NCAA March Madness and Fantasy Baseball games. The campaign will include a mix of television, radio, print and online advertising.


Until the fourth quarter of 1999, the site had only spent "a couple of thousand dollars on advertising," said Carey. "Once somebody signed up, we just encouraged them to find 10 of their buddies to be in it with them."


Targeting men ages 18 to 34, the site began to advertise more heavily thanks to the $14 million in financing it received in the late third quarter.


Spots aired on the radio during the syndicated sports shows and the Howard Stern show. Sandbox took out full-page ads in popular print fantasy sports magazines and college newspapers. It also purchased search terms and keywords on AOL and Yahoo.


To strengthen its e-commerce effort, the site partnered with Outpost.com, Kent, CT, on Dec. 8. Outpost.com will provide all of the back-end technology for the site's storefront while providing fulfillment, shipping and merchandise sourcing. No money was exchanged. Outpost.com will instead have access to Sandbox.com's database of users.


"We had a very basic storefront," said Carey. "We had some really good response, but we needed to take it to a whole other level. We're going to sell a much wider product offering."


To encourage members to click through to advertisers' ads and purchase from its e-commerce site, Sandbox.com will continue its "Sand Dollars" continuity program. Sand dollars are redeemable for prizes.


The site also plans to continue its 2,500-member affiliate program. Affiliate sites are paid from $1 to $2 per new member. "It doesn't generate a lot of traffic, but it has a low acquisition cost per customer," said Carey.
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