Sunday’s Super Bowl Isn’t Only Winter Game On TV

The Super Bowl may be the country’s biggest sporting event but it has yet to produce a day off from school, like ESPN’s Winter X Games that conclude tomorrow in Aspen, Colo.

The ninth annual competition, the equivalent of the Olympics for onetime fringe sports like snowboarding and snocross, led to so much absenteeism in the last three years at the Roaring Forks School District outside Aspen that today schools there are closed.

Advertisers after a young male audience have taken notice, buying the full complement of sponsorships for the games, according to Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN/ABC sports customer marketing and sales. Commercials blanketed 15 hours of live coverage on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC Sports. Sponsors included predictable teen targeters such as Mountain Dew, Taco Bell, Sony PlayStation and Apple, as well as Jeep, Right Guard XTreme Sport, Edge shaving cream, 20th Century Fox’s <I>Alien vs. Predator</I> DVD, Schick Quattro Midnight, Apple and Campbell’s Soup.

“When created, there was no outlet for extreme sports,” said Chris Stiepock, general manager of the Winter X Games. “Now, some games have even crossed over into the Olympics.”

Sources said 30-second spots in the games run $25,000 to $30,000, significantly less expensive than the $2.4 million for the same time on the Super Bowl telecast.

This year’s games saw the first TV effort from Quiksilver, a Huntington Beach, Calif., action-sports equipment and apparel company. Along with subsidiary DC Shoes, Quiksilver provided this season’s top-tier sponsorship, which included media placement on ESPN’s TV, radio, Internet and print properties, as well as on-site signage and additional hospitality perks.

Quiksilver’s advertising campaign was crafted by 72andSunny, an El Segundo, Calif.-based independent shop. Television spots take advantage of the company’s established relationships with a number of X Games athletes, and play off the idea that personalities are as important as skill: the competitors are not unlike their fans, except for using pricier equipment.

Five 30-second spots by 72andSunny have been running since last week and will continue through mid-February, the agency said. Four are reality TV-style ads that feature an intentionally low-budget, 1960s surfer-flick look, accompanied by retro-bachelor pad-inspired music. In each, scruffy snowboarders Danny Kass and Todd Richards sarcastically taunt and test one another. For example, Kass makes Richards hold his small dog while he takes off down a hill, or they play a game of rock-paper-scissors to determine who gets to be the snowboard-run “guinea pig.” Another commercial goofs on the age difference between the two (Richards is older).

Spots for DC Shoes, created in-house, feature leading skateboarders Ryan Smith and Devine Calloway, and show their perceptions of all objects as skate-able platforms.

Junior high and high school teens ages 12-17 are the X Games prime viewers, according to ESPN. Including all telecasts, the three networks (ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC) in 2004 garnered an average of 413,000 households, up from fewer than 270,000 in 2001.