Football Show Blends Team Coverage With Elements of Infomercial

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A show titled "Jets Insider" lived up to its name during the football season, offering features on the New York Jets, such as a "day in the life" of players, player snapshots, and scenes from the stands. But the half-hour show, which aired on WCBS-TV Channel 2 in New York as a regularly scheduled program, also contained direct response components to sell merchandise.


The show, which was produced by MarkeTVision, Boston, was the company's second featuring an NFL team. Three years ago, the company produced a similar show focusing on the New England Patriots.


"We selected the New York Jets because, like the Patriots, we believed in their ability to go far into the season," said Andy Miller, president of MarkeTVision. "It helps when the team makes it to the conference championship or to the Super Bowl. The fact that both teams were coached by Bill Parcells is a coincidence."


Because of the show, the Jets were able to reach an expanded broadcast audience and consumer base.


"It gave us a chance to learn marketing from a direct response standpoint," said Marc Riccio, director of marketing for the New York Jets. "From a sales and ratings standpoint, the show was very successful."


Miller said the program is another example of "revenue-enhanced programming" that his company produces. The programs make money from merchandise sales and spot insertions from corporate clients.


With "Jets Insider," proceeds from the corporate sponsors - The Money Store and Dunkin' Donuts - helped to cover the media costs of placing the program.


"The Jets show was not an infomercial [in the traditional sense]. Nowhere was it listed as paid programming," he said. "The products that were sold were collectibles, and sold during break-out spots during the show, not during the show itself. The Patriots show was more like an infomercial with products being sold in player spots."


Products that sold out on "Jets Insider" included a football with the Super Bowl III logo and a video of Super Bowl III, which was the Jet's only Super Bowl appearance, $49; jerseys autographed by the players, $249; a T-shirt Parcells wore during training camp, $19.95; and a sweatshirt also worn by Parcells sold for $49. Miller said other products did not do so well. He declined to disclose total sales figures.


"The products that were the most popular were ones that were not available anywhere else," he said. "Other products that were not unique did not do as well."


The company produced four shows, and each show ran three times during the regular season. Media was purchased for MarkeTVision by Frederiksen Television Inc., Falls Church, VA.


Riccio said the players enjoyed taking part in the show.


"Week in and week out they are asked questions about playing time and performances and coaches, this show gave them an opportunity to talk about topics that related to off-the-field situations," he said. "It was fun for them."


The Jets were to be the focus of a program that would have aired along with the one focusing on the Patriots, but because the Jets at the time were planning to change the logo, they declined to air the show until they were ready to market the latest logo, which was the original team logo from the late 60s and early 70s.


Uncertain Future


Miller said he met with the Jets organization in February, but he was not sure if the company would produce another show for next season. In the mean time, he is directing his efforts at online marketing for other clients.


"We've gone in a very different direction, and are in the process of developing three online sites that will be connected to our television marketing," he said. "We moved away from marketing for other people to marketing our own products. I'm not going to say we will never do it again. The relationship is still good with the Jets, but if we are going to do it, it is going to have to be integrated into our own product lines."


MarkeTVision developed three online brands - Television.com, Woman Sportsfan, and College.com - to target market niches. Television.com is designed to connect television and the Internet in the marketing of products. College.com will sell college gear on the Internet and Woman Sportsfan is a brand of products targeting women between the ages of 18 and 49, which is the fastest growing group of sports fans.


The first product to be launched is from the Woman Sportsfan collection. It is a book titled "Every Woman's Guide to Auto Racing," written by Arlene Martin, wife of NASCAR racer, Mark Martin, and MarkeTVision executive Janet Prensky. This book will be followed by the "Women's Guide to Golf," which is due for rollout in May.


"Television.com is going to be our most important line," Miller said. "However, we expect them all to do very well."
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