WSOP makes play for additional sports coverage

LAS VEGAS: As the 37th World Series of Poker (WSOP) drew to a conclusion, the organization and its AOR continued to promote the event as a cultural phenomenon while soliciting traditional sports coverage.

LAS VEGAS: As the 37th World Series of Poker (WSOP) drew to a conclusion, the organization and its AOR continued to promote the event as a cultural phenomenon while soliciting traditional sports coverage.

This year's WSOP attracted record participants for the main and peripheral events (8,773 and 45,000, respectively) and established new exclusive-coverage deals with Sirius Radio and AOL, adding to returning broadcast partner ESPN.

Held at Harrah's Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, the tournament comprises 46 separate events and an overall prize pool of $150 million, with the main-event winner taking in $12 million and the coveted solid gold bracelet.

The added attention kept Baltimore, MD-based AOR Trahan, Burden & Charles (TBC) busier than usual. The PR firm, which has handled the account since client Harrah's, a hotel and entertainment company, acquired WSOP three years ago, has been actively pushing out the event as a sport.

"Some large, mainstream news outlets aren't sure how to classify this event," said Dave Curley, senior account supervisor with TBC. "We launched a strong initiative to move from features page to sports page to build on daily coverage. Now we're seeing more daily coverage coming out of [papers like] USA Today."

While the three media partners have exclusive live coverage deals, the agency worked to garner daily coverage in other outlets by positioning the event not as a distant feature topic, but "as legitimate news," Curley said.
 
Curley noted that CNBC covered the event, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Houston Chronicle, and Baltimore Sun are among the other dailies that have covered the event on their sports pages. Additionally, the Associated Press has sent journalists to provide sports coverage for other dailies.

The final table began on August 10, and ESPN offered broadcast of the event live as a pay-per-view service. It will eventually show the event on its main cable offering sometime after its completion.

"We're well on our way [to mainstream sports acceptance], but these things don't happen overnight," Curley said.

The agency also handled a promotional event and press conference before the tournament started for the new gambling-themed Warner Brothers movie Lucky You, directed by Curtis Hanson and starring Drew Barrymore and set, in part, at the 2003 WSOP. On July 27, the agency held a press conference with Hanson, Barrymore, and poker players who served as consultants on the film.
 
The agency is also handling the second annual WSP Gaming Life Expo, which is expected to draw at least 75,000 people.

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