Nissan, ESPN Team Up Again For Gridiron Blowout Tour

Scoring with college sports fans, Nissan and ESPN The Magazine have teamed up for the second straight year to sponsor the ESPN Gridiron Blowout Tour.

This year's tour provides college football fans with the ultimate tailgating experience and interactive promotions that both Nissan and ESPN The Magazine expect to disclose this week.

The campaign kicked off with online banner ads and spots that launched across ABC and ESPN television networks earlier this month. The ads show college mascots chasing after the Heisman Trophy, which sits in the bed of a Nissan truck.

The 10-city ESPN Gridiron Blowout Tour that begins Saturday visits college football marquee match-up games where fans can watch ESPN college football coverage in the Nissan Lounge, a viewing area lined with comfortable couches and flat-screen TVs.

Nissan expects about one million fans to attend the tour that begins at the Georgia at Alabama game on Saturday, and ends at the Texas at Texas A&M game on Nov. 23. The tour also makes stops at North Carolina State, Tech at Clemson, Florida State University, the University of Southern California, and Kansas State, among others.

While Nissan plans to display the Heisman Trophy at each stop along the way, football aficionados can enter a contest for the chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip for two to the Heisman Trophy presentation and the reception for Heisman recipients and candidates, as well as members from the Heisman Foundation and National Football League.

As sole presenting sponsor of the Heisman Trophy, Nissan invites fans to log on at theheismanvote.com to cast their votes for their favorite college football stars. Last year during a similar promotion sponsored by Nissan and ESPN The Magazine, fans cast more than 16 million votes. The combined votes count as one vote for the Heisman Trophy. Nissan will set up computer voting kiosks so fans can access the site at tour stops.

Those who come out to cheer on their teams also get a chance to win Nissan and ESPN co-branded merchandise such as mini-footballs, keychains and hats with the Heisman Trophy logo.

"We're connecting with the passions of college football fans, and getting an opportunity to showcase our vehicles like the Titan, and launch the new Rogue," says Kyle Pratt, group director, Integrated Strategy & Programs, Nissan/Infiniti at Omnicom's media agency OMD.

The 2008 Rogue, Nissan's first entry into the small crossover SUV segment, went on sale Wednesday and will begin rolling into dealerships next week. The carmaker announced a starting price of $19,250 for the front-wheel drive Rogue S and $20,450 for the all-wheel drive Rogue S. The equipped SL starts at $20,670 for 2WD and $21,870 for AWD.

Nissan hopes the promotion will raise awareness and entice potential buyers who might want to know more about the vehicles' performance, such as fuel economy. "Getting the point across in promotions requires several components, from national advertising, to online and on site," says J. Schaffer, promotions manager, Nissan North America. "Some of these were done last year, and we found them very successful."

Nissan relies on feedback from dealerships to measure any promotion's success. Some feedback will come from reports on foot traffic into stores, as well as from monitoring the number of people who "raise their hand and inquire about additional information" for specific cars. These signals and more will determine if Nissan, the brand, can connect successfully through college sports with football fans, Schaffer says.

Nissan's extended relationship with ESPN The Magazine includes custom-produced stories about the Heisman that will air on ESPN. Nissan also will continue to work with the magazine to create customized Heisman inserts throughout the college football season, the ESPN Gridiron Blowout Tour and Heisman Trophy promotions.

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