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BigBallot Nets Marketing Edge By Running NBA All-Star Voting

BigBallot, a marketing services provider, is helping the National Basketball Association prepare for its All-Star game Feb. 11 in Washington by managing its multichannel balloting campaign.

The balloting drive began last month and will run through Jan. 15.

Representatives of the NBA said they expect the balloting campaign to bring in “comparable” numbers to last year’s effort, which produced 4 million ballots, 30 percent of which were online.

“It’s a big project,” said Brian McIntyre, senior vice president of sports communication at the NBA. “[BigBallot] is getting votes from all over the country, and have to be able to assemble them and give us reports on a regular basis.”

BigBallot — www.bigballot.com — has made ballots available throughout the NBA’s 29 arenas and in more than 2,000 Sony movie theatres nationwide, said Jeff Gehl, chief executive officer at BigBallot, Newport Beach, CA. Users can also vote at the NBA’s Web site, www.nba.com, and at any one of the individual franchise’s Web sites, all of which are owned by the NBA.

In addition, the NBA sends out an e-mail newsletter to about 100,000 subscribers every Monday that promotes upcoming games, McIntyre said. During the campaign, he said, the e-mails will include hyperlinks that will drive subscribers to the Web balloting page.

The NBA, which has used the balloting process with BigBallot and its predecessor company, The Marketing Center, for 25 years, outsources the All-Star balloting campaign because of the size of the project, McIntyre said. BigBallot handles “tens of millions” returned ballots, Gehl said.

“We don’t have the technology or equipment and to go out and purchase all that stuff,” McIntyre said. “That would be a hell of an investment.”

The balloting process, which has also been used by Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the TV Guide Awards, among others, helps companies develop their list because of the sweepstakes and promotions that are generally associated with them, Gehl said.

The NBA balloting process includes a promotion in which ballots at the movie theaters have a coupon for a free small popcorn with the purchase of a Sprite, which sponsors the theater component of the campaign, attached to them, Gehl said. Also, fans who provide their name and demographic information — both offline and online — will be entered into a sweepstakes in which the winner wins four tickets to the game, he said.

“The balloting programs are still the number one database builders for the [NBA], year in and year out,” Gehl said. “And there’s also major incremental content that they use either to leverage existing sponsor relationships or to sell new sponsors.”

BigBallot, which processes the offline and online registration information, plans to expand its balloting programs to wireless applications, Gehl said.

The NBA, which would not reveal how many fans have voted and been added to the company database, said it intends to give an update as early as later this month, at which time it will provide weekly updates, McIntyre said.

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