Promo Close-Up - Extreme Turnaround

Distributor Earns High Marks From Big-Time Client

X Games Case StudySports broadcast network ESPN is always looking for innovative ways to market the Winter and Summer X Games, which feature extreme sports like surfing, BMX and snowboarding. ESPN has carried the Games since 1995 and counts on highly customized promotional products to build fan and athlete enthusiasm.

“ESPN never wants to do something off-the-shelf,” says Lauren Laschewer, branding specialist at Axis Promotions (asi/128263), which counts the sports network among its clients. “They always want their items to have amazing full-color graphics that convey the action-packed spirit of the X Games.”

Most recently, ESPN approached Axis with a unique idea for the Summer Games – one that led to an especially challenging project. The network sent Axis a photo of a snowboard made into a clock and wanted 250 of them put together on skateboards in a little more than a month. “They had no artwork or board dimensions, but they wanted full-color art on it,” says Laschewer. “At first we thought we would have to use a skateboard deck company, but skate decks are produced overseas and we had no time. We were also told that even if they aired these in, they couldn’t source or assemble the clock hands.”

After a lot of brainstorming and research, Axis reached out to Commerce, CA-based Premium Shapes, a promotional plastics company, which was able to construct the skateboards and the clock hands for ESPN’s marketing campaign. It was a close call, but the finished product was a crowd-pleaser.

“The campaign was effective because it strengthened sports fans’ personal connection with the X Games’ brand by offering a collector’s item to be hung in their homes and workplaces,” says Janet Dickerson, co-founder and principal of brand management firm Pixel Prose Media. “By taking the collector’s item approach, ESPN and Axis Promotions were able to meaningfully connect with sports fans, which likely expanded the event’s reach to an even greater audience.”

While the order was a big success in the end, there were certainly tense moments and some risk. Premium Shapes had to lay out elements of the art on the skateboards, source the clock parts and assemble them – all in a short time. “They even suggested that we put the ESPN globe on each clock hand,” Laschewer says. “This was time-consuming, but they knew it would be the perfect touch.”

Dickerson believes Axis pulled off the order because it understood ESPN’s audience and the network’s willingness to try new promotional ideas. “In shifting focus from a skate deck to a plastic promotional products manufacturer, Axis Promotions was able to successfully troubleshoot each project issue without compromising quality and timely delivery to the client,” Dickerson says.

Take note: Every marketing team should have an effective contingency plan in place should the original strategy suddenly fall through. It took work, but in this case Axis turned a simple photo into a $10,000 deal. “Axis Promotions’ decision to order from Premium Shapes proved to be an acute move, and showcased its bold and swift decision-making skills,” says Dickerson. “This will undoubtedly contribute to increased client confidence, and helps project a strong positive image of the company to potential customers and competitors.”