Campaign Courts Tennis Fans Online

Organizers of the Pilot Pen Tennis event in New Haven, CT, are launching a major marketing campaign following the July 4 holiday weekend to boost ticket sales.

The “Right in Your Own Backyard. See It Live!” campaign marks the event's first departure from traditional advertising as the centerpiece of its efforts. The nucleus of the campaign is online sweepstakes in which 11 entrants can win the chance to sit at a “backyard patio” set up alongside the court.

The campaign's message is that even the marginal fan should come out and see the event, which will be at the Yale University campus from Aug. 18 to 26.

“We want to build buzz and excitement,” said Anne Worcester, tournament director at Pilot Pen Tennis Presented by Michelob Light, New Haven, CT. “It's actually a way to attract the fair-weather fan who likes the excitement of a contest or sweepstakes, to get them to come to the Web site and hopefully get them to come to the matches. We want to attract more than just the hard-core tennis fan. We want to beat last year's attendance record [of 75,000 fans].”

To promote the contest, 200,000 ticket brochures that direct consumers to the site will be sent out. The brochure, which is essentially a direct mail advertisement promoting the event, will be sent to lists included in the sponsors' databases as well as to members of tennis clubs in Connecticut. The pieces were expected to drop at the end of the month.

Michelob Light retailers throughout the state also will promote the online contest through point-of-purchase displays and other collateral. Michelob has approximately 500 accounts in the state. The New Haven Register and other local newspapers and publications also will promote the event. Spots will air on local radio stations as well.

Using the Web as the vehicle for entry has a number of advantages, Worcester said. It is less expensive than traditional sweepstakes and can expose visitors to other information about the event.

“While they're on the Web site, they can learn about special events, top players, the TV schedule and how to buy tickets,” she said.

Last year, received double the number of visitors compared with 1998. Worcester expects traffic to keep growing significantly as a result of the contest.

This type of campaign is unusual within the tennis world, according to Worcester. “Tennis is marketed in a very traditional way: ticket brochures, posters, television and radio. This is a whole new entertainment component,” she said.

In addition to the 11 online winners, another winner will be selected from among the tournament’s attendees to sit at the patio during the finals. The patio will include patio furniture, umbrellas and butler service. One of the 12 winners will be selected to receive the furniture.

The Pilot Pen event is the last Women's Tennis Association tournament prior to the U.S. Open. At press time, blue-chip players such as Venus Williams and Monica Seles had committed to the Pilot Pen tournament.

The event will receive 11 hours of national television coverage over four days on ESPN/ESPN2, with the singles final broadcast live on CBS Sports. International coverage will reach more than 350 million potential viewers in 100 countries.

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