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Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

Whether they’re being groomed for acquisition or poised for long-term profit as standalone entities, Web 2.0 startups continue gorging on investors’ millions, according to a new report today from Internet Evolution. Despite the confusion of the current economic climate, “Web 2.0’s Biggest $inkholes” highlights key areas where VCs and angel investors think big Web 2.0 payoffs await:

  • Targeted advertising: JellyCloud couldn’t hack it and $11.5 million later went belly up; Lotame is staying afloat with its $28 million purse.
  • Social networking: All-purpose inbox company Xoopit is working on a $6 million round, while Orgoo is on indefinite hiatus; AOL’s $850 million for Bebo ended up being largely a write-off for the company.
  • Video: Lots of money’s chasing the desire to be the next YouTube – too bad most of the hosted content is porn; Trooker and others are betting there’s a market for video search.
  • Search: Cuil ($33 million) and SearchMe ($43.6 million) might imagine themselves Google killers, or at least viable alternatives. For investors, imagination makes for a crummy investment strategy.
  • Self-publishing/social-publishing: Uber.com and Bricabox litter this landscape, having shuttered themselves as things got rocky. It’s unclear whether ShareNow.com can thrive here.

“These startups are gambling that they’ll be acquired by the dominant players in each of these Web 2.0 sectors – Google, Facebook, YouTube, MSN, and Yahoo,” says Terry Sweeney, Editor in Chief of Internet Evolution. “As if today’s market wasn’t enough of a hindrance, many of these startups also suffer from fuzzy business plans, poor execution, and even crummy company names. Incredibly, that’s not stopping the flow of investment in some below-average companies.”

About Internet Evolution: Internet Evolution hosts more than 100 world-famous Internet experts – such as Kevin Mitnick, once the most-wanted computer hacker in the world; Dr. Lawrence Roberts, inventor of packet switching, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on telecom network architectures; Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google; Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist.com; Paul Mockapetris, inventor of the Domain Name System (DNS); Howard Schmidt, former White House cybersecurity adviser; and Andrew Keen, author of Cult of the Amateur: How the Internet is killing our culture — all of whom are addressing today’s critical socio-economic issues within its ThinkerNet blogosphere. Internet Evolution also offers broadcast-quality broadband video documentaries and interviews; investigative reports; and user-generated content facilitated via the latest Web 2.0 technology.

About TechWeb: TechWeb, the global leader in business technology media, is an innovative business focused on serving the needs of technology decision-makers and marketers worldwide. TechWeb produces the most respected and consumed media brands in the business technology market. Today, more than 13.3 million* business technology professionals actively engage in our communities created around our global face-to-face events, Interop, Web 2.0, Black Hat, and VoiceCon; online resources such as the TechWeb Network, Light Reading, Intelligent Enterprise, InformationWeek.com, bMighty.com, and The Financial Technology Network; and the market leading, award-winning InformationWeek, TechNet Magazine, MSDN Magazine, and Wall Street & Technology magazines. TechWeb also provides end-to-end services including next-generation performance marketing, integrated media, research, and analyst services. TechWeb is a division of United Business Media, a global provider of news distribution and specialist information services with a market capitalization of more than $2.5 billion.

About United Business Media Limited: United Business Media Limited (UBM) is a global media and marketing services company that informs markets and brings the world’s buyers and sellers together at events, online, in print, and with the information they need to do business successfully. UBM serves professional and commercial communities, from IT professionals to doctors, from journalists to jewelry dealers, from farmers to pharmacists around the world. UBM employs more than 6,500 people in more than 30 countries. UBM’s businesses operating in the US include CMPMedica, Commonwealth Business Media, Everything Channel, PR Newswire, RISI, TechInsights, TechWeb and Think Services. UBM is listed on the London Stock Exchange (UBM.L) and has a market capitalization of $2.5 billion.

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Brightcove Inc., the leading global Internet TV platform, announced the formation of a majority-owned Japanese subsidiary, Brightcove KK. The new subsidiary is backed by $4.9 million in new investment from Brightcove Inc. and four market-leading Japanese strategic partners: Dentsu, Inc., J-Stream, Inc., transcosmos, Inc. (transcosmos), and Cyber Communications, Inc. (CCI). Three of the investment partners, Dentsu, J-Stream, and CCI, along with Brightcove Inc., will be sales agents for Brightcove KK in Japan, giving Brightcove KK immediate and powerful access to the Japanese market.

Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, Brightcove KK will operate a localized version of Brightcove’s award-winning, on-demand Internet TV platform, which is currently used by media companies and marketers across North America and Europe. With Brightcove KK, Japanese media companies and marketers will gain access to the most powerful and scalable software as a service (SaaS) solution available for online video players, distribution, and advertising.

“Brightcove enters the Japanese market at a time when household broadband penetration has surpassed 50 percent, presenting enormous opportunities for media companies and advertisers to build online businesses and engage audiences,” said Jeremy Allaire, chairman and chief executive officer, Brightcove. “It is a great privilege to be partnering with the market leaders in Japan for digital media and advertising. By combining the proven Brightcove technology with the capabilities of our partners, Brightcove KK will give media companies and marketers in Japan a unique solution for implementing their online video strategies and unlocking the potential in the market.”

The Brightcove KK partners represent the market leaders in Japan in digital media, advertising, and content delivery.

  • Dentsu, Inc. is the largest advertising company in Japan with a market share of approximately 30 percent and has over 6,000 clients Groupwide.
  • J-Stream, Inc. is Japan’s largest content delivery network specializing in streaming media for content providers and business corporations.
  • transcosmos is Japan’s leading information processing outsourcing company adopting the latest Internet technology through the strategic investment and business development.
  • CCI is Japan’s largest interactive adverting company that currently has more than 30 percent of the country’s digital brand marketing, a popular advertising serving technology, and online advertising network.

These companies bring tremendous reach into the media and marketing sectors in Japan, and will help ensure the success of Brightcove KK in the Japanese market.

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The Internet Content Syndication Council (ICSC) issued a white paper entitled “Content Creation and Distribution in an Expanding Internet Universe” last week at the headquarters of the AAAA (American Association of Advertising Agencies). It was presented during the joint meeting of the AAAA’s Digital Marketing Committee and Search Engine Marketing Committee.

The 12-page study details the benefits of Internet Content Syndication to the four main constituents of the media industry: content creators, publishers, advertisers and users. The paper defines “Internet Content Syndication” as “The controlled placement of the same content on multiple partnering Internet destinations.” One the of paper’s main conclusions is that Internet Content Syndication offers a powerful solution to online audience fragmentation, a daunting problem facing online advertisers today.

The white paper was prepared by a working committee selected by the ICSC Board of Advisors and distributed to its membership for comment. The organization is comprised of market leaders in the rapidly expanding areas of Internet content creation, distribution, licensing, measurement and advertising sales.

Andrew Susman, chairman and founding member of the ICSC and CEO of Studio One Networks said, “The purpose of the ‘White Paper’ is to present in a clear and concise way the principles of Internet Content Syndication and the opportunities it offers those involved in today’s burgeoning online marketplace. Our heartfelt thanks to the council members for their valuable contributions.”

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Businesses today face a greater than ever need to differentiate themselves, often on a global scale. So how can they harness the acceleration of technology innovation instead of focusing solely on productivity tools for their employee’s desktops? One of the most common approaches is to seek out tailored business solutions capable of addressing complex business challenges. Today, Microsoft is focusing on those customer needs by addressing the way it serves its largest customers and delivers the value they need and expect.

Austen Mulinder, Microsoft Worldwide Enterprise Sales Vice President.As former head of Fujitsu Transaction Solutions, Austen Mulinder is bringing CEO leadership experience to his role as Microsoft’s vice president of Worldwide Enterprise Sales. His goal: Increase the velocity of the transition from the traditional product sales approach to one delivering increased business value built on deep customer relationships.

The foundation of this strategy includes three sales programs designed to counsel and support Microsoft’s largest customers as they solve real-world business challenges through IT. Microsoft’s PP recently met with Mulinder to learn how the Worldwide Enterprise Sales team is building its programs and talent to enable new opportunities for customers, partners and Microsoft.

  • You have the unique distinction of having been a CEO, as well as a customer and partner of Microsoft. How are those experiences influencing your strategy?

From my previous experience outside the company, I’ve been able to observe the journey Microsoft has taken over the past several years. Microsoft has gone from being primarily a desktop company to being a serious player in the enterprise. I’ve seen the company move away from a product focus and become more solution centric. I’ve watched the good advancements and the stumbles along the way. Microsoft has come a long way, and we now have the opportunity to provide deep strategic counsel to the world’s biggest global companies.

We aspire to be the industry benchmark for sales excellence and to attain “trusted advisor” status with all of our customers, but we recognize this is a journey. We have some of the smartest sales people I’ve ever come across, and a lot of strong tools supporting them. Now our focus is increasingly around building relationships that encourage deeper customer dialogues and greater transparency and sharing of information. This enables us to partner with our customers to jointly explore how to leverage technology for differentiated business value.

Our best (customer) account leaders, and we are fortunate to have many role models, have achieved trusted advisor status with their customers. We’re working hard to achieve that status with all of our customers.

  • Who sets the sales priorities, and how do those priorities translate to the sales resources you deploy?

A huge element of our effectiveness is being close enough to our major customers at the right levels to really understand their priorities and respond effectively. If we’re getting it right, customers will set the priorities.

Having said that, we have the Sales, Marketing and Services Group (SMSG) led by Kevin Turner, and he is ultimately responsible for driving the organization to be effective for customers, while at the same time delivering business results for our shareholders. In the enterprise space, part of Kevin’s team is Simon Witts, who runs the Worldwide Enterprise and Partner Group. We also have two verticals, Public Sector led by Gerri Elliott and the Communications Sector led by Martha Bejar. They all have a tremendous influence on our sales priorities.

To carry out the broad strategies set by the leadership team, we want as many of our sales assets to be as close to the customer as possible, and so the vast majority of our customer-facing people report to the field, not to headquarters. We also have some major sales groups that make sense to lead from Redmond on behalf of Microsoft globally-the Incubation, Category and Specialist Sales team, the Global and Multinational Account Sales team, and the Sales Escalation team, with the vast majority of their team members based in the field.

  • Let’s talk about global accounts and multi-national companies. How does Microsoft engage with these customers?

The Global and Multinational Accounts program is currently focused on 50 of the largest corporations in the world, and we plan to double that over the next couple of years. The 50 global accounts are headquartered in 12 countries, and they have subsidiaries in another 90. We manage them globally, and each has a dedicated global business manager. The 50 accounts actually include support for some 850 companies, including downstream subsidiaries.

We give these accounts a heightened level of support because we see them as the ultimate proving ground for solutions that deliver real business value on a global scale. Within these accounts we are working to build a stronger strategic business relationship. We also increase their access to our product teams and senior executives at Microsoft.

Since I joined Microsoft in June of last year, I have talked extensively with many of the leaders of these global customers. What they want from Microsoft is to partner successfully to deliver solutions that drive real business value, whether that’s helping them innovate to differentiate themselves in the market, or reducing the total cost of ownership for IT

  • How do you incorporate newly acquired technologies, or those that haven’t reached the critical mass of flagship Microsoft solutions?

That is the job of our Incubation, Category and Specialist sales teams. The incubation program exists because our business groups are making huge investments in both new and acquired products. In the early lifecycle of these products, we typically don’t have enough resources for the field to deploy them on day one.

Incubation is a dedicated set of sales resources that we manage centrally in partnership with the field. Their focus is to develop the sales strategy and drive the adoption of these products so that we can achieve real critical mass and develop our expertise in servicing these customers.

When we’ve grown an incubation product to a large enough volume and level of capability, it moves under the Category sales team for strategic and operational leadership. We then move those resources directly into the field, where they are managed locally. We continue to work closely with the business groups and the field to take those products into the mainstream.

A great example of this process would be our acquisition of Softricity and their SoftGrid product – which we now call MDOP, the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack. Before the acquisition, Softricity, in several years of existence, had sold about 250,000 seats of Softgrid. Within 13 months using the Microsoft incubation sales capability model we sold more than five million seats.

  • How are you working with customers to sell, integrate and deploy specific solutions or products?

Historically the sales approach has been about selling and licensing products to customers, and enabling them to work out the deployment via the partner ecosystem. Now we are aligning our sales priorities with solutions, and bringing real expertise to bear against that goal. We have Specialist Team Units in the Incubation, Category and Specialist Sales team, who are sales resources with deep technical knowledge. We also have a Sales Escalation team, which is a group of highly technical consultants who can dive deeply into specific customer scenarios. We also partner closely with Microsoft’s product groups and business units to drive solutions that create real business value.

Ford Sync is an example where that broad partnership paid off for the customer. The account team who orchestrated the dialogue, together with the business groups, partnered with Ford to look at how they could differentiate themselves in the market for cars. Ford Sync took advantage of Microsoft’s mobile technology and voice recognition technology to create a unique offering. Today cars that are Sync-enabled far outsell those without that capability. So that’s a tremendous example of a solution we built with a customer, to help them serve their customers’ needs, and that delivered true business value.

  • How does your team address competing technologies?

To be effective advisors, considering the breadth of products that Microsoft sells and the number of markets we’re in, we need people with deep expertise in myriad technologies. This is where the Sales Escalation team comes in.

The Sales Escalation team contains many of the strongest technical resources in the company. Typically they’ve been hired from outside as experts in technologies that we interoperate with and compete with.

We manage over 3,000 escalations for our field each year, supporting them in competitive situations. Our subject matter experts help customers make the right buying decision based on factual comparisons of technical capability, total cost, and risk. These experts play a strong role in helping customers understand the full value of existing and new solutions. As part of these field engagements we also gather important customer feedback which we use to report back to Business Groups and product engineering teams to ensure that our products and partners constantly improve and become more compelling in the market.

This group is also highly sought after in our Executive Briefing Centers (EBCs), which are facilities we manage around the world to host enterprise customer meetings. Executive Briefings help Microsoft to go more deeply into a customer’s business needs and examine how technology can solve the challenges they face.

  • How does the enterprise sales group work with industry partners to enhance the overall value delivered to customers?

One of Microsoft’s biggest strengths in the marketplace over the past 25 years has been its broad and vibrant partner ecosystem. We have one of the largest partner channels in the industry, with thousands of partners worldwide deploying millions of IT, marketing, and sales professionals that carry Microsoft’s products to market.

The only way we can realize the full potential of the R&D we spend across industries is to ensure we have a healthy partner ecosystem that understands our product set and is skilled in deploying it. This has always been a cornerstone of our business.

Our account teams orchestrate the combination of service delivery by Microsoft and partners from the ecosystem. Many times the partner will take the lead, and we’ll support that. It’s key to understand that we drive a high percentage of our sales through and with our partner community, and that is not going to change.

As we move forward to evolve the software plus services model, Microsoft is defining new opportunities for the partner community to deliver value to customers. There will still be opportunities to resell, refer, add value through professional services, package with customized capabilities, and realize business growth through annuities and subscriptions, but there will also be abundant new opportunities for innovative, value-added services and customization as these hosted products roll out.

  • How does Redmond’s involvement in enterprise sales impact the enterprise customer experience?

In an ideal world, the field has major competency in all of our products and solutions, and doesn’t require support from Redmond. But in the real world , we’re forever evolving the overall value proposition and the product elements that make up that value proposition. Having key technical resources and key leadership from Redmond engaged in important customer opportunities brings benefits all around. The customers appreciate the access, the insight they gain from it, and the opportunity to influence our direction. The Redmond resources benefit from the connection to the real world of our customers and their experience with, and leverage of our products.

One of the ways we embed this connection into our way of doing business is through the Executive Sponsorship program that connects our most strategic customers and their Microsoft Account teams with Microsoft Executives. I am fortunate to be Executive Sponsor to a number of our Accounts and it is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my role. I know many of my peers feel the same way.

Our team works to provide that bridge. If we’re getting the sales model right, we will get a good mix of field leadership and Redmond involvement for the biggest accounts, so they feel they’re getting the best of all worlds from Microsoft. To that end there are a number of strategies, like those outlined here, that are being driven to create a more customer and sales centric environment in Redmond, and thus create a better platform to enable success in the field.

  • How else does Microsoft connect with customers at the enterprise level?

One of the things that impressed me the most as a partner and customer of Microsoft is the investment the company makes in connecting with customer executive teams. I knew that if I came to Microsoft seeking insight and information, the facilities would be first class, the content would be excellent, the quality of the people would be very high, and my team would leave with a better view of our overall technology and business strategy. Microsoft does an amazing job of that.

We had 20,000 visitors come to our eight EBCs globally last year, nearly half of them to the EBC in Redmond. Recently we expanded our Redmond capability with a 50 percent increase in capacity. This year we expect to host some 15,000 visitors in Redmond, representing about 2,000 discrete customers. That is a tremendous advantage in that it gives us the opportunity to deploy our A-team across many more customers than we could if they had to visit customer sites. If you look at the utilization and the feedback we get for our EBCs, we really leverage them to the hilt. The EBCs are one of our most strategic sales tools.

Additionally, we have 16 Microsoft Technology Centers around the world – which provide facilities, technology experts and a virtual deployment site for customer solutions – and we manage nearly 3,500 engagements annually in those centers. The success rate of when we prove out a customer solution in one of the MTCs is extremely high.

Microsoft is also known for running tremendous executive events. Every year we run the CEO Summit, the Global CIO Summit and the Global Account Summit, to name a few. These exclusive events bring together top business leaders with Microsoft executives and external thought leaders for unique business and technology discussions.

Through all of these venues, we create value for the customer, both now and in the future, with how we evolve our relationship and our understanding – by listening and engaging in deep discussions with them on a range of topics.

There are a huge number of assets that Microsoft Account teams can leverage to add value to our customers and build deeper relationships in the process. I have been very impressed with how fully utilized these capabilities are. It is a good indicator of the ever increasing level of customer centricity in how we do business, and as someone who enjoys customer connection more than any other aspect of my role; it is great to be part of this team.

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Bravo, Apple, Showtime, HBO, Absolut, and Levi’s, are the gay-friendliest brands, while WalMart, Dunkin Donuts, Cracker Barrel, Exxon Mobil, and Samsung earn the lowest marks from gay and lesbian consumers, according to the 2008 Prime Access/PlanetOut Gay and Lesbian Consumer Study released the other day.

HBO.Conducted by Clark, Martire & Bartolomeo on behalf of advertising agency Prime Access and PlanetOut Inc. (Nasdaq: LGBT), the survey is one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of gay and lesbian consumer habits and brand perceptions. A total of 2,259 adults aged 18-64 participated in the study, which was broken down into two panels: general population (1,502 respondents) and gay and lesbian population (757 respondents).

Prime Access is the leading advertising agency specializing in reaching the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. PlanetOut Inc. is the leading global media and entertainment company exclusively serving the LGBT community.

Lesbian Girls.The report confirms why many of the world’s most successful brands recognize that being gay-friendly equals good business. According to the study, more than two-thirds (68%) of gay and lesbian consumers said they are more likely to buy from a company they considered to be gay-friendly, a perception they base largely on a company’s advertising, followed by input from friends and the media.

The study also reveals that 71% of gay and lesbian consumers said they have a more favorable impression of companies or products that feature gay imagery in their advertising. Howard Buford, president and CEO of Prime Access, noted that Levi’s, one of the top gay-friendly brands, recently featured a gay couple in television advertising.

“The study reveals that gays and lesbians are fiercely loyal customers to brands they perceive as reaching out to them,” said Buford. “A marketing communications program directed at the gay and lesbian audience can be a significant opportunity for brands to build business.”

Kevyn Aiken, Vice President of Marketing, Media Sales at PlanetOut, said the study also confirms why gays and lesbians represent one of the most coveted and active demographics.

Apple Macbook Air.“Gays and lesbians have many similarities to straight people, with one pronounced difference: they’re more powerful consumers,” said Aiken. “In virtually every category – from financial services to fragrance – the study shows that gays and lesbians tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing new products and trends. They are early adopters that their peers look to for advice, opinions, and ideas. As a result of their influence, they impact many more purchases than just their own.”

For example, Aiken said the study revealed that gays and lesbians are almost twice as likely (60% vs. 34%) as their straight counterparts to say people seek their advice.

Among other notable findings in the 2008 Prime Access/PlanetOut Gay and Lesbian Consumer Report:

  • 8% of adults in the general population panel identified as gay or lesbian, reflecting conventional wisdom that 5-10% of adults are gay.
  • Sexual orientation is the primary community with which gays and lesbians identify. 47% of gays and lesbians said their sexual orientation is the community that most defines them, followed by gender (45%) and religion (28%). This compares to gender (36%), nationality (32%), and religion (30%) for the general population.
  • While almost three-fourths of both gays and lesbians and the general population are opposed to outing, 61% of gays and lesbians support outing if an individual is actively opposed to equal rights. Only 33% of the general population agrees.
  • 69% percent of gays and lesbians are Democrats, while 7% are Republicans.

The report also surveyed 3,156 PlanetOut subscriber and reader respondents, drawn from email promotable lists provided by PlanetOut. Notable findings among this group include:

  • 85% of PlanetOut respondents said they are more likely to purchase products from companies they know are gay-friendly.
  • PlanetOut respondents are 36% more likely than the general population to consider themselves “someone in the know”.

To view a summary of key highlights from The 2008 Prime Access/PlanetOut Gay and Lesbian Consumer Study, please visit: http://www.primeaccess.net/c2_gpr.php.

Methodology: The 2008 Prime Access/PlanetOut Gay and Lesbian Consumer Report is one of the largest, most comprehensive studies ever of gay and lesbian consumer habits and brand perceptions. The study was conducted by Clark, Martire & Bartolomeo, a leader in custom media marketing research. The respondents were sourced from both the Harris Interactive general population panel, one of the largest online panels available today, and from Harris Interactive’s GLBT specialty panel. A total of 2,259 adults aged 18-64 participated in the study, broken down as follows:

  • General population: 1,502
  • Gay and lesbian population: 757

The Harris Interactive GLBT specialty panel is recruited from various sources, and is not specifically enlisted from gay and lesbian websites. In addition, 3,156 PlanetOut subscriber and reader respondents, drawn from email promotable lists provided by PlanetOut, were also surveyed. The PlanetOut “universe” includes readers/subscribers of Out, The Advocate, gay.com, out.com, planetout.com and outtraveler.com.

An online methodology was selected primarily for the critical anonymity it offers respondents. Because online research allows respondents to complete surveys with anonymity and privacy, respondents are often more comfortable sharing their experiences and concerns.

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D.C. United and Volkswagen of America, Inc. has announced a five-year partnership agreement that will see the two brands join forces in a landmark deal that includes Volkswagen’s logo on the shirts of the most successful team in the history of American professional soccer. Volkswagen will also be prominently featured through a variety of other club and in-stadium marketing components. United will debut the new uniforms on national television Thursday night when the club hosts the Chicago Fire. Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET at RFK Stadium.

“As with all of our important decisions, we took a very strategic approach to engaging the market of potential jersey sponsors,” said United President and CEO Kevin Payne. “We wanted to be sure we found the right partner, and on the right terms. We’re thrilled to have this relationship now with Volkswagen, which is ideal from our point of view – a multi-national company with a strong brand, a cultural understanding of our game, a commitment to our community, and a reputation for thinking a bit out of the box. For us, VW is a perfect partner.”

In addition to the traditional advertising and promotional benefits often found in sponsorship agreements, Volkswagen was insistent on providing the fans of D.C. United some added value while attending games at RFK Stadium. Volkswagen’s fan initiatives include the Volkswagen Garage, a new interactive area located behind the north goal at RFK Stadium. The Volkswagen Garage will serve as a hospitality area and vehicle showroom with space for 1,000 people. The Garage offers a unique brand experience and features: soccer based car games, FIFA Xbox 360 stations, live T-shirt screen printing, branded merchandise, hammocks and Adirondack chairs for relaxation, and a whole lot more. Volkswagen will also be a participating sponsor of D.C. United’s Soccer Celebration located in Parking Lot 8.

“The ‘brand’ we put on our jersey is extremely important to us,” said United Co-managing Partner Victor MacFarlane. “We believe that the D.C. United brand stands for something significant and the ‘brand’ on the front of our jersey has to be compatible with our vision. Volkswagen fulfilled and exceeded our wishes. They are a company committed to excellence and customer service with an international reputation for both. Will Chang and I are delighted they have become our new partners.”

On game days, Volkswagen’s commitment to the fan experience will extend beyond the stadium and soccer celebration. All fans driving to United’s match on Thursday, against Chicago, will be treated to complimentary parking, courtesy of the new presenting sponsor. Going forward, the first 50 Volkswagens to enter lot 4 on gamedays will also be treated to a complimentary spot.

“Since Volkswagen is new to the greater Washington D.C. area, we wanted to find opportunities to support the local community and D.C. United was an obvious choice,” said Stefan Jacoby, president and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. “D.C. United is a great soccer team, committed to success both on and off the pitch. The team philosophy, mission and fans closely mirror our own corporate philosophy and customer base.”

In addition to the partnership with D.C. United, Major League Soccer and Volkswagen today announced a partnership that makes Volkswagen the official automotive partner of Major League Soccer. The partnership delivers MLS league and collective team marks and logos and marketing assets at league events such as the Pepsi MLS All-Star Game and MLS Cup, Major League Soccer’s championship game.

“We’re excited to partner with Volkswagen, a global brand with tradition in Football, Futbol and Soccer,” said Doug Quinn, president of Soccer United Marketing. “With Volkswagen’s roots already embedded in the sport, this is a partnership that makes sense at both the club and league level.”

Volkswagen’s jersey sponsorship element makes the company the first group to adorn the front of United’s shirt in club history. Traditionally, the space is recognized as the most valuable inventory a soccer club has to offer and is reserved for a crest that supports the team, sharing in the organizational goals and ideals. Authentic and replica jerseys and other merchandise are now available in the D.C. United team store at RFK Stadium or by calling 202-546-7023. Fans that have previously purchased a 2008 authentic or replica jersey are able to have a Volkswagen logo added to their merchandise, courtesy of Volkswagen, by visiting the team store or the jersey stand inside C gate on game days.

Elements of the new alliance will be on display Thursday night, when United hosts Chicago. Tickets to the match are available at http://www.dcunited.com or by calling 202-587-5000. Group tickets, package plans and individual tickets to United matches, not including SuperLiga games and the Los Angeles Galaxy match on June 29, are also now available for sale. For more ticket information or to purchase ticket packages, log on to http://www.dcunited.com or call D.C. United at (202) 587-5000.

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Students spellbound by the game of SCRABBLE competed in the 2008 National School SCRABBLE Championship held this weekend in Providence at the Rhode Island Convention Center. After six rounds and countless strategic plays, returning champion Matt Silver, 14, of Westport, Conn. and his teammate Logan Rosen defeated Joey Krafchick, 13, of Roswell, Ga. and his teammate Dorian Hill, 13 of Tucker, Ga. in the Championship round today, claiming the title and a $5,000 grand prize. It’s a fitting tribute to a game that’s celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

Logan Rosen and Matt Silver, Westport SCRABBLE Club.“The National School SCRABBLE Championship brings students from all across the country together for the love of the game,” said John D. Williams, Jr., executive director, National SCRABBLE Association. “These kids enjoy playing SCRABBLE because it is both challenging and fun.”

During the Championship, 100 teams of students in grades five-to-eight from 23 states competed in six rounds of play on Friday and Saturday leading to the final match-up. The grand prize winners received a $5,000 cash prize. The second-place team was awarded $2,000 and the third place team walked away with $1,000. Once again, ESPN will telecast the Championship as kids head back to school in August 2008.

Among those competing in the National School SCRABBLE Championship were two teams from the Arizona Cactus-Pine Council Girl Scouts and two students from the Philadelphia ASAP Program, an organization providing after-school programs for kids of all ages.

More than one million students have played SCRABBLE in approximately 20,000 schools nationwide. This year, the National SCRABBLE Association and the Girl Scouts of the USA announced the availability of the first ever SCRABBLE game patch, “Words Rock.” There are currently 27 Girl Scout SCRABBLE clubs representing 19 states, and two teams participated in the National School SCRABBLE Championship.

A family favorite since 1948, the board game is celebrating its Diamond Anniversary and is found in one out of every three homes in America, according to Hasbro, makers of the game in the United States and Canada. SCRABBLE is unique because it is a game of continuous winning moments. Unlike other games where players wait until the end of the game to find a winner, SCRABBLE provides a great sense of accomplishment throughout the entire process. Any time participants look at their tiles to find a word, they are immediately rewarded, which is why kids love to play the game.

“All of the participants demonstrated a tremendous amount of passion, enthusiasm and sportsmanship which make the Championship a fun event for everyone involved,” said Jay Bruns, director of marketing for SCRABBLE, Hasbro Games. “This program is a testament to the unifying power that a fun game like SCRABBLE can have on people of all ages.”

The National School SCRABBLE Championship is underwritten by Hasbro. For more information about the SCRABBLE game or other tournaments and clubs around the country, visit http://www.scrabbleassociation.com.

About Hasbro

Hasbro (NYSE: HAS) is a worldwide leader in children’s and family leisure time entertainment products and services, including the design, manufacture and marketing of games and toys ranging from traditional to high-tech. Both internationally and in the U.S., its PLAYSKOOL, TONKA, MILTON BRADLEY, PARKER BROTHERS, TIGER and WIZARDS OF THE COAST brands and products provide the highest quality and most recognizable play experiences in the world. SCRABBLE, the distinctive game board and letter tiles and all associated logos are trademarks of Hasbro in the United States and Canada and are used with permission.

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