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It's time for main stream advertisers to look at the World Series of Poker

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Any of these companies interested in making more money?

A twitter conversation after my post on WSOP Coverage led me to thinking about why major companies don’t advertise for poker.  I couldn’t really answer the question without thinking of the perceived level of illegality that exists around the game.  While its clear that poker and Vegas go together, the game itself is played globally complete within the confines of the law. And while some states don’t permit online gaming (the state of Washington jumps immediately to mind), I can’t help but think that the major companies are missing out on a fantastic means to reach their primary and core demographics as poker has established itself as a game of interest for consumers.

I went onto the Nielson site to see if I could get a random snip-it for what the ratings are for sports on a random day.  The first listing they showed for sports was for the week of May 3rd, 2010.  I was surprised that they didn’t have anything for more recent data, but I thought that I’d use it anyway as I just didn’t want to bury myself in research for my blog.  Here was what the top shows got:

RANK PROGRAM NETWORK RATING VIEWERS (000)
1 FOX NASCAR SPRINT CUP-(S)-05/08/2010 FOX 4.2 6969
2 NBA PLAYOFFS ON ABC-SU6-05/09/2010 (CLE/BOS) ABC 4.2 6580
3 NBA PLAYOFFS ON ABC-SA2-05/08/2010 (LAL/UT) ABC 3.7 5809
4 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP-SUN-05/09/2010 NBC 3 4664
5 FOX SATURDAY BASEBALL-05/08/2010 (NYY/BOS&ATL/PHI) FOX 2.5 3658
6 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP-SAT-05/08/2010 NBC 2.3 3336
7 RUMBO AL MUNDIAL 5/7-05/07/2010 (MEX/ECU) TEL 1.1 2077
8 NBC POKER SERIES-05/09/2010 NBC 0.9 1327
9 POKER AFTER DARK MO-SAT-05/08/2010 NBC 0.9 1183
10 FUTBOL ESTELAR II-05/08/2010 (CHIV/MON) TEL 0.7 1178

Nielsen Rankings for the week of May 3rd, 2010

It actually surprised me that Poker came in twice in the top 10 here.  While the sub 1.0 rating was certainly less than stellar, and way below NASCAR or the NBA Playoffs, the fact it that an arbitrary cash game got about half of the viewers than a Saturday Night Baseball game between the Yankees and the Red Sox pulled.  Just a few guys sitting around for about 15 aired hands of cash play got 0.9 on NBC.  It made me wonder what the WSOP would pull if it was run at the same timeslot on ABC.

But back to the advertisers.  I went again to Nielson to find out who the big advertising firms were.  They showed  a list of the top companies from the first half of 2008 and 2007.  Here they were:

Nielson Ratings

So, here’s my thing.  I’m wondering why these top 10 companies aren’t looking to seize the demographic that poker is clearly reaching.  My expectation is that somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 million people will view the final table of the main event of the WSOP, giving it a Tuesday night rating (when it airs), of somewhere between 1.1 and 2.0.  And you’re telling me that Ford, Honda, or GM doesn’t want to sell cars to these people?  You’re telling me that AT&T or Verizon doesn’t want these people buying their cell phones and locking them into their phone contracts?  You think that Pepsi would rather have them drinking Milwaukee’s Best (or worse, some energy drink) instead of their soda?  Perhaps Proctor & Gamble doesn’t realize that an industry fraught with money would be interested in shaving products, toothpaste, laundry detergent, or even their high end stuff like Dolce & Gabanna, HUGO BOSS, or Gucci.

By partnering with a brand like the World Series of Poker, these parent companies would offer the opportunity to provide exclusive exposure right now to the millions of television viewers that are watching this stuff on TV.  Right now, it appears that the online poker sites are the only ones capitalizing off of the broadcasts and popularity of poker, while the Sasquatch of Jack Link’s and the Giant Can of Milwaukee’s Best also come to mind with the commercial spots that they run.  But I would certainly love to see less of Daniel Negreanu and Jason Mercier in commercial spots saying “Come visit us on the world’s largest poker site”, and start to see more of “The nighttime sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever, so you can rest medicine,” or spots on “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”  Turns out, these rich people that are all about “the bling” would buy this stuff up.

Have you seen the patched players recently?  You’re getting either PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker all over these guys, and nothing else.  And this year, we have 7 players at a final table that are all patched by Full Tilt Poker, where only 3 of them will be permitted to wear the patching because of the WSOP rules.  So why not have John Racener advertise Coca-Cola on his shirt, or Fillipo Candio with Dolce & Gabanna on his hat, or Michael Mizrachi with Deloite and Touche? (couldn’t resist that last one)

I doubt very much that these companies are going to knock on the players or the WSOP’s doorstep, which is unfortunate.  And I hope that nobody on the WSOP side is sitting idly by, staring at the telephone and waiting for it to ring.  I hope that the powers that be at the WSOP are proactively searching for these companies to affiliate with, meeting regularly with these CEO’s on the 13th green of some fancy golf course, or at a table where there is just some overpriced $17 salad. I pray those meetings are taking place, simply because it would be good for the game.  To have big time sponsors affiliate with the game of poker would increase the revenue streams, decrease the juice that is being paid by the players, and perhaps bring more money into the sport with more people attending, and increased viewership.  I may be an optimist, but something about these possibilities seems very realistic as well.

So here’s to all of you that read this little blog.  If someone out there knows someone at a major corporation, have them get in touch with the World Series of Poker please.  I think that once they take a real look at what the poker industry is offering, they’ll see a whole new world of opportunity.

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