Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards in April are known to be one of the largest national kids entertainment events in the world. The event, now in its 11th year, features celebrities and entertainment properties chosen by kids as their favorites. For instance, this year’s event featured top-drawer attendees like Rosie O’Donnell, Will Smith, Hanson and Madonna. The star-studded event attracts increasing media and public attention each year, yet one aspect of its growth is somewhat less known: the success of the event as a local affiliate marketing blitz.
This year, Nickelodeon partnered with cable affiliates across the U.S. to offer a sweepstakes program for the third time in the event’s history. In the sweepstakes, five winning families garnered deluxe trips to Hollywood to attend the awards show. Trips included round-trip airfare, ground transportation, hotel accommodations, a welcome dinner and a day at Universal Studios Hollywood, along with tickets to the Kids’ Choice Awards. A second prize awarded in each of the 30 participating affiliate markets offered five kids special Kids’ Choice premiums and Nickelodeon prize packages. The awards also presented unique opportunities for advertisers, including the option to sponsor the event locally. For affiliates, special Kids’ Choice and Nickelodeon merchandise packages were available in exchange for airing cross-channel tune-in spots for the awards show.
The big surprise of the local promotion, according to Lynn Richardson, director of affiliate marketing for Nickelodeon and Nick at Night, was the overwhelming support of the affiliates. ‘The kids and family business was considered to be a tough one by cable affiliates, with limited revenue in comparison to trying to target adults,’ says Richardson. ‘Three years ago, there were 14 participating affiliates, who generated about US$200,000 in ad sales revenue. This year, 65 cable affiliates participated, generating US$1.6 million in ad sales revenue,’ a figure that rivals sales for longer-running adult events such as the MTV Music Video Awards.
Another surprise was the participation of advertisers that don’t traditionally advertise during kids programming. ‘Furniture, electronics, hospitals, grocery stores-all were categories that typically don’t advertise [with Nickelodeon],’ says Richardson. ‘Affiliate ad sales departments were also able, for the first time, to convince large regional consumer packaged-goods companies to spend advertising money locally.’ Mothers Cookies was one such company, which used advertising during the Kids’ Choice Awards to drive sales in the Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco markets.
Kids’ Choice has also been a surprising success on a local level in terms of branding, says Richardson. ‘It allows us to maximize opportunities for cable operators to translate the success of the event on a national level to a local level. Affiliates generate local revenue, and [the event] also helps them brand themselves in the community.’
Another highlight for affiliates was that Nickelodeon brought over 100 affiliate families to the event. Special local channel promo spots were taped featuring these families on location at the Kids’ Choice Awards.