Lycos Sports Launch Anna Kournikova
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Lycos Sports Launch Anna Kournikova

Lycos Sports was an unidentified brand, seeking global recognition as one of the top on-line sports destinations providing up to the minute sports information to the Gen X (ages18-34) market.

Paul Holmes

 

Lycos, Inc. is a leading Web media company.  Founded it 1995 it has been growing in both destinations and capabilities.  In April 2000, Lycos, Inc. launched Lycos Sports (http://sports.lycos.com)  - a comprehensive sports destination providing up-to-date scores, stats and athlete information.  Lycos Sports was receiving minimal page views and generating little interest as a Sports resource.  The recent launch of major competitors meant more overcrowding in the already highly competitive marketplace.  Lycos Sports needed to increase their market share above and beyond Yahoo Sports, ESPN Sports Line and AOL Sports.   Lycos Sports was an unidentified brand, seeking global recognition as one of the top on-line sports destinations providing up to the minute sports information to the Gen X (ages18-34) market.  Weber Shandwick was commissioned to work with Lycos in developing a concept, to generate positive global media coverage for Lycos Sports and increase brand awareness for Lycos, Inc.

OBJECTIVES

Lycos, Inc. had four primary objectives for the PR launch of Lycos Sports:

  • To create and sustain positive awareness of Lycos Sports on an international scale
  • To increase overall brand awareness and position Lycos, Inc. as a trend setter 
  • To encourage search on the Web using Lycos, Inc. as the premier resource for information
  • To associate Lycos Sports with a successful global sporting event

AUDIENCE

The target audience for this public relations campaign included all sports fans as well as the general public and Internet users.

RESEARCH

Initial research involved deciphering the most effective PR event to launch Lycos Sports, which would garner maximum exposure to its target market.  Derived by tracking the daily search queries from Lycos users, The Lycos 50 reflects what terms users are searching for on the web.  The Lycos 50 sophisticated search equipment was used to determine the most searched for athlete on the Web.  Results revealed, tennis superstar Anna Kournikova ranked number one, which led Weber Shandwick to research tennis fans as Internet users.  The outcome suggested tennis fans are generally from a higher income bracket and therefore likely to have access to the Web through personal computers.  Based on these findings, a decision was made to hold a press conference and award ceremony to present Kournikova with the first award of its kind, “The Most Searched For Athlete on the Web” award.  

In researching press conference locations, it was decided that Wimbledon in the United Kingdom would be an ideal location because results revealed that this event attracts more press than any other sporting event of the summer.  Both the Weber Shandwick New York and London offices investigated top-tier international and UK based media who were already covering the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

PLANNING

Weber Shandwick worked closely with Kournikova’s management company, IPG sister agency Octagon Worldwide.  Working as one team we developed the contract, determined event/appearance requirements, developed the message points and speech for Kournikova. Weber Shandwick and Lycos also worked closely with American based staging and equipment company, Visionaires, who were flown to the UK for the purpose of this launch.  Additionally, a three-minute countdown video was created of the 50 most searched athletes along with a brief site demo. As the number one most searched athlete was announced, Anna Kournikova, arm in arm with the Lycos dog, made her appearance.

Weber Shandwick worked closely with Lycos in producing the custom-made trophy awarded to Kournikova.  The trophy was designed as a globe to personify global reach of the company.   Plans were executed to provide extensive signage at the press conference along with the presence of the Lycos dog in full costume.  Execution of the press conference was completely coordinated from the US.  

Weber Shandwick worked with Lycos to develop the key messages, create press materials, invite key media, arrange one-on-one interviews with top-tier press, manage the satellite feed and provide aggressive post-launch follow-up.  

STRATEGY

In June 2000, Kournikova’s popularity was at its peak and she was garnering continual print and broadcast coverage in virtually every major media outlet worldwide.  Lycos leveraged her existing popularity to create a halo effect positioning the brand within the Gen X market as a trendy, hip and hot portal above and beyond all its competitors.  With the Kournikova’s participation, Lycos Sports intended to be personified as the number one Sports content provider on the Internet.  The timing of the press conference was decided on surrounding the buzz and excitement of both Wimbledon and Kournikova herself.  The press conference took place the day prior to the kick-off of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.  

EXECUTIONS/TACTICS

Invitations:

Weber Shandwick personally invited a select group of top-tier international and UK based media to attend the press conference via an on-line invitation. 

One-on-One Interviews:

Weber Shandwick set up one-on-one interviews with select broadcast media.  Lycos was given 30 minutes of Kournikova’s time.  Within this time frame, 20 minutes were spent on the press conference leaving 10 minutes for one-on-one interviews.  To garner the most exposure three top-tier broadcast outlets were carefully chosen for a two-minute one-on-one interview.  The interviews took place with CBS Early Show, NBC EXTRA and Transworld International.  The Transworld feed ran in 77 countries worldwide.  Additionally two minutes were allocated for the US b-roll.

Press Release Distribution:

On the day of the press conference, Weber Shandwick distributed a press release via Business Wire, as well as directly to key targets. A photograph of the press conference was placed on the global wire.

Satellite Feed:

Footage was shot the day of the event.  The edited footage was used as B-roll for a satellite feed to the US.  The satellite feed ran in 30 US markets, with stories airing on network affiliates.

Lycos TV:

Lycos TV is on-line TV where various programs (sitcoms, cartoons etc) are aired throughout day.  Users can select the programs they would like to watch.  Lycos TV aired the press conference b-roll for their users.  Hits to Lycos TV increased by 200%.

Post-Event Follow-Up:

Aggressive outreach was conducted after the press conference.

OBSTACLES AND EVALUATION

The press conference was extremely successful. Weber Shandwick’s main challenge was coordinating all event logistics and activities from New York to London with the primary target audience being the US market.  Through the utilization of team members in the London office and with constant communication between both the New York and London offices, this challenge was easily overcome.   

Lycos Sports garnered global exposure reaching almost 80 countries across the world.  Hits to Lycos Sports increased by 300% with over 200% in the Gen X market.  Overall hits to the site almost doubled following the press conference.

The agency succeeded on all accounts of truly globalizing the launch and successfully coordinating all activities across the globe.  Coverage was both extensive and global generating over four billion impressions worldwide.  Hits included CNN International (12 times), CBS, NBC, FOX, TNT, Sky Television, Transworld International, Associated Press, Reuters, USA Today (twice), Washington Post (front page), Boston Globe, Miami Herald, and Tennis Magazine amongst many others.  On-line coverage included foxsports.com, forbes.com, msnbc.com and tennis.com.
On September 30th 2000 episode of Hollywood Squares one of the questions asked was “According to Lycos, who was just named as the most searched athlete on the Web.”  The answer of course was Anna Kournikova, which the contestant answered correctly.  

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