This month, Cartoon Network is making the international tennis circuit, the U.S. movie circuit and the NASCAR racing circuit-all in an attempt to grab some attention for the network and its new shows The Powerpuff Girls and Ed, Edd n Eddy.
The network’s Wacky Racing NASCAR will hit the Winston Cup races in Rockingham, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia during the first weeks of November, donning a new shocking-pink paint job complete with shimmering stars and decals depicting the Powerpuff Girls. This ‘promotional vehicle’ is the first part of a comprehensive campaign for the new show that’s set to air November 18. The network estimates that more than 10 million viewers, both at the track and via television, will see the car, and Craig McAnsh, senior VP of marketing for the network, says the odd juxtaposition between the paint job and the gritty high-testosterone racing world gets to the heart of the promotional challenge.
‘This show is definitely not a girls show-it’s a superhero show that happens to feature girls,’ he stresses. ‘What we really want to drive home is the fact that the episodes are full of action sequences and power.’
In fact, the network expects more boys than girls to watch, as the show targets the traditional age range of six to 11, and the 55/45 boy/girl split most Cartoon Network shows aim for. McAnsh says, despite the female leads, the focus on action and adventure ensures the show won’t be a tough sell to boys, as long as he can get them to watch it at least once.
The predominantly male, teen-to-middle-aged audience at the racing events means the promotion will hit a wide target, but the network says that more and more kids are watching the races on TV.
To keep the momentum flowing after the series airs, trailers will be appearing before kids movies on 250 screens in the top 20 U.S. markets. The 60-second Powerpuff Girls trailer will maintain the high-energy theme with hard-driving music and fast-paced action, and will be accompanied by a second trailer for Ed, Edd n Eddy. Running November 25 to Christmas Eve, the trailers are being produced and distributed in association with New York-based Screenvision Cinema Network, an advertising broker with access to 20,000 screens in most of the major U.S. theater chains.
In conjunction with spots on the network, the promotion will include lobby displays, signage, buttons for theater staff and character giveaways.
Not all Cartoon’s promotional activity has been confined to its new fall shows-or even to North America. This year, the net launched its first large-scale international campaign by taking the Smash Tennis promotion to India, Brazil, Australia, Holland, France, Spain, Italy and China.
A partnership with the ATP tennis tour and the Tennis Industry Association (TIA)-which represents such manufacturers as Nike, Wilson and Prince-started the ball rolling in the U.S. almost two years ago. The ATP and TIA wanted to get more kids playing the game and the Cartoon Network was looking for an appropriate vehicle to cross borders with. Bob Bryant, VP of Cartoon Network Enterprises, says using tennis worked well because of its worldwide appeal. He notes the game is among the top three in Europe, expanding rapidly in Asia, and experiencing a ‘huge growth period’ in South America, thanks largely to the celebrity status of local tennis stars Marcelo Rios and Gustavo Kuerten. Bryant adds that the appeal of the cartoon characters has been universal, and only minor adjustments to the emphasis placed on different characters were required for different regions. The network estimates that about 250,000 kids were exposed to the promotion over the last year, including 15,000 at one three-day event in Chennai, India alone.
The Smash Tennis set-up comprises a cartoonized touring truck equipped with a portable stage, a 23-foot Scooby Doo, transportable tennis courts, interactive inflatable games such as the Jetson’s Galactic Planet SMASH, and an audio-visual system running Cartoon Network footage.
Local co-sponsors included Spalding, Penn, Babolat tennis strings and Eurosport in Europe, Colgate, BSA Bicycles, and 7-Up in India, and Westfield Shopping Centres in Australia.
The tours will be back next year, and Bryant hopes to expand the promotion to include more stops.