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Marketers Look to Roll with MVP

Young Lebron James drew
swooning scouts and marketers

Talented high school athletes can do more than draw college scouts to the courts, according to The New York Times. Marketers for major brands are also beginning to hustle in their direction.

Major media players are beginning to lavish attention normally reserved for college and pro stars onto high school athletes.

After acquiring MaxPreps, which boasts a database rich with over a million young jocks, CBS Corps' College Sports TV division began pushing video on-demand channels, including high school sports programming, under the MaxPreps brand.

NBC and CW also broadcast shows whose themes draw heavily from high school sports: Friday Night Lights and One Tree Hill, respectively, air student drama around football and basketball. Sponsors like Applebee's, Cingular and Secret have paid to weave their brands into the plot.

And in December, Time Warner's Time Inc. joined forces with Takkle, a social networking site for high school athletes. Members can nominate peers for a feature called "Face in the Crowd," which appears in Sports Illustrated. Stars like Lebron James have graced the magazine before claiming a high school diploma.

The large number of athletic students in grades 9-12 have proven a savory segue into the fickle teen market. In the school year falling between 2005-2006, approximately 7.2 million students played sports according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. This market has grown 80 percent since the school year that fell between 1971-1972.

And high school athletes don't just buy the typical sneakers, sports gear and sports drinks. Like other teens, they invest in grooming products and recreational aids like magazines and video games. What's more, a number of high schoolers purchase groceries for their families while parents work in the daytime.

HIgh school students have also been known to influence the purchasing decisions of parents in major commitments like cell phones, computers, cars and possibly even insurance.

In 2005 Allstate Insurance began a marketing campaign demonstrating support of high school athletes. Today the brand is present in over 700 schools at which agents sponsor teams and donate to athletic departments.

Integrated marketing communications VP Lisa Cochrane of Allstate divulged, "Teenagers themselves are not big customers for insurance, but their parents are. And they will be, in the future."


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