Little did Delta Faucet know that its entitlement sponsorship of ESPN’s Saturday college football telecast would come with bench support from Chris Berman and Dick Vitale, two of the network’s most visible sportscasters. The country’s largest faucet manufacturer, Delta Faucet had just gone through its first title sponsorship of ESPN’s halftime report during college hoops games. Doing so had provided a cost-effective way for a moderate-sized advertiser to land a high-visibility sponsorship without breaking the bank.

It wasn’t so easy getting there, as the editorial side of ESPN had its reservations about commercial infringement on its programming. “Whenever you begin something like this, there’s some concern over the amount of advertising” on the programming, says Tom Talbert, vp/associate media director at Lintas:Campbell-Ewald. “There was some sensitivity in that regard.” Once the debate was settled, Talbert–along with his boss, executive vp/executive media director Bob Gervason, media supervisor Page Sakelaris and media planner Mary Ellen Sierzenga–and Ted Andrusz, the ESPN account executive in Detroit handling Delta, concurred that the next logical step was to bring the client into another entitlement. This time was the “Delta Faucet Halftime Report” on ESPN’s Saturday night college football games that ran from Sept. 4 through Nov. 7 last fall.

In addition to two sports in each game, the entitlement included the following: a 30-second spot within the report, a billboard (This halftime report is brought to you by the Delta Faucet Commpany. Delta, the way water is brought to life.”), on-screen indentification via a logo that appeared over the shoulder of the host, and numerous mentions during the first half of the game. “They were looking for an event vehicle so they could develop a franchise,” notes Andrusz. “They hit upon sports as a way to do that.”

The identification with ESPN in prime time gave Delta Faucet the ruboff it needed. “It provided a lot of the ingredients we were looking for,” says Talbert, who notes that Lintas: Campbell-Ewald has had the Delta Faucet account since 1990. “ESPN’s a very merchandisable network. When you’re on ESPN, they know how to find it.” The entitlement served two purposes: it provided a level of awareness to counsumers of the Delta brand name and it sought to reach the contractors, hardware stores and plumbers who install the faucets. “We knew this would be a terrific consumer vehicle, but we needed to let the trade know” first and foremost, says Talbert. Enter Berman et al., who gave the buy a serious dose of extra-curricular support.

Berman chipped in to Delta’s effort by penning a letter Delta sent out to its trade contacts apprising them of the sponsorship and its duration. Berman’s letter was sent along with a football emblazoned with both the Delta and ESPN logos, promising that “With this [football] in hand, you’ll be catching the long bomb just like Andre ‘Bad Moon’ Rison!”

Vitale, who has a penchant for gab, hosted a seven-minute sales videotape produced by Lintas for Delta that also got sent out to the trade. He didn’t stop there.” “Being the entrepreneur he is, Vitale mentioned Delta Faucet on radio shows he was on,” notes ESPN’s Andrusz. Vitale also delivered a speech at Delta’s annual sales meeting last November, giving away copies of his book to the attendees. Other ESPN personalities lent themselves to Delta as well. ESPN commentator Roy Firestone spoke at the National Association of Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors convention last October, no doubt regaling the attendees with his best plumbing jokes. And former college football coach turned commentator Lee Corso spoke at Delta’s employee apprecation day in march.

Talbert says feedback about the campaign from Delta Faucet’s suppliers has been positive, as awareness of the entitlement was high. But probably no one expected football fans’ awareness of the deal to be high. Andrusz says that a few particularly avid fans were spotted holding up homemade signs mentioning Delta Faucet’s halftime report. “This thing took on a life of its own,” notes Andrusz, with a hint of surprise in his voice. Fans weren’t the only ones spurred on by Delta’s activity; the competition was too. “It certainly got the attention of others,” says Andrusz, noting that companies like Moen and Price-Pfister have since expressed interest. “Anytime you have a success, the competition starts to take an interest.”

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