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Card Tourney Promotes Kool

Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. is betting that a 16-city card tournament and an offer of a free deck of cards at retail will draw interest in its Kool brand among smokers.

The Louisville, KY, company dropped mailers to customers and prospects, urging them to enter the Spades Slam tournament. Advertisements in magazines including Essence, GQ, Maxim and Esquire as well as free decks of cards at retail stores will support.

“The challenge really is to help drive traffic to retail to generate trial of Kool by smokers of competitive brands like Newport and … to create awareness of the tournament and drive participation,” said Rich Newman, president/CEO of 141 Worldwide, a Bates USA unit in New York.

Kool is the No. 2 menthol brand in sales after Loews Corp.-owned Lorillard's Newport. Sub-brands from Philip Morris Cos.' Marlboro hold the No. 3 spot.

A tri-fold mailer in envelope went to 350,000 consumers from Brown & Williamson's database and from rented lists of opted-in menthol smokers ages 21 to 30. The house file comprises names of consumers who filled business response cards at retail point of sale or at bars.

In Kool's signature green, the mailer informed recipients about the Spades Slam, a tournament at bars that require ID for entry. People sign up by dialing a toll-free number listed in the mailer. About 80 to 100 people are expected to play in teams of two within each participating bar, with winners graduating from bar-level to citywide tournaments, regional and then the national final Dec. 7 in Las Vegas. The top prize is $50,000.

The first round begins Oct. 2 in Baltimore, winding its way through New York, Washington and other cities.

Purchase of Kool cigarettes is not a prerequisite for participation.

The same mailer also asks recipients to stop by a retailer to get a custom-designed deck of playing cards free when they buy a specially marked pack of Kool.

A previous mailing dropped Sept. 4 to 525,000 consumers on Brown & Williamson's database and opted-in prospects from outside lists. This tri-fold postcard had an identical call to action asking recipients to buy a pack of Kool, get the playing cards and call to register for the tournament.

Both mailing exercises were preceded by a test mailing in July. For that effort, a 6-by-7-inch bi-fold mailer in the shape of playing cards dropped to a select audience. It touted the same gift with purchase idea.

Direct marketing plays a key role in Brown & Williamson's outreach to its target audience.

“The tobacco industry is very limited in its communications channels,” said Alex Falcone, vice president of relationship marketing at 141. “Specifically, they cannot use mass communications [such] as TV or radio.

“Brown & Williamson is … in a very controversial industry,” Falcone said, “and there is an absolute need for us to be certain we're talking to smokers over age 21 years who have opted in to actually receiving materials from the company, and the only way they can do this is on their own database.”

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