HP and Yahoo Sports rally March Madness fans

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Hewlett-Packard has teamed up with Yahoo Sports to create an interactive Web site aimed at engaging college basketball fans in the March Madness excitement.

Fans can visit HP Courtside '07 for game scores and to interact with other fans on Yahoo Messenger, Yahoo Answers and Flickr. Yahoo is also sponsoring a promotion, "The Maddest Bracket Contest," where fans can enter to win HP products and up to $1 million by picking the winning teams.

"This is an effort to reach basketball fans in an HP-branded environment that has the latest in Web 2.0 offerings," said Mary Bermel, director of interactive advertising and emerging media at HP, Palo Alto, CA. "As much as fans love to watch television, they're also spending a lot of time online to find out about their favorite teams."

Between the first game on Thursday, March 15 and the final tip-off on Monday, April 2, fans can talk trash about players, teams and basketball action using Yahoo Mobile's smack-talk feature. In addition, basketball enthusiasts can ask each other questions and share opinions about the tournament on Yahoo Answers.

On Yahoo Messenger, fans can dress up avatars in favorite team jerseys, as well as connect with each other in themed tournament IMVironments where they can follow the games and get updated news. The site also features live tournament game tickers, college team avatars and full editorial content from Yahoo Sports. There is also a score widget that can be downloaded to keep track of real-time statistics on the games. The Flickr component lets fans upload and share photos inspired by the tournament.

In addition, entrants who fill out a bracket in the Pick 'Em Challenge '07 have the chance to enter Yahoo's "Maddest Bracket Contest." Contestants who correctly predict the winner of every match-up of the 64 teams in the tournament have a chance to win a $1 million grand prize from Yahoo. Other prizes include $50,000, HP high-definition TV, HP notebooks and HP digital cameras.

The March Madness site is being promoted on www.yahoo.com and www.hp.com. It is aimed at college students and basketball fans in general. The goal is to connect to an audience much wider than those attending the games.

"Sporting events have always been social events," Ms. Bermel said. "With the Internet, it makes it easier for those who cannot be at the games to participate nonetheless."

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