AOL Inks Celebs In Marketing Deals

AOL Time Warner is making moves to capture the attention of the younger crowd on behalf of advertisers, this week signing deals to promote teen pop music sensations *NSYNC, and teen actors/entrepreneurs Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

Through the arrangements, *NSYNC will appear across AOL’s America Online service, and its related Web properties, CompuServe and Netscape.com. The sites will let members access exclusive and original *NSYNC-related content, such as listening parties, song lyrics, interviews, chats, photo galleries, videos and “behind-the-scenes” clips. Members also will be able to pre-order upcoming albums and participate in related online sweepstakes.

America Online and AOL’s Web sites also will offer an *NSYNC radio station via Radio@AOL, as well as a downloadable *NSYNC screensaver and an official *NSYNC skin for the Winamp MP3 and Web audio player, which is owned by AOL. Additionally, *NSYNC will record AOL greetings, like “Welcome” and “You’ve Got Mail,” in a variety of different languages for use on AOL’s international sites.

New York-based AOL also said that starting March 3, America Online would sell advance tickets to *NSYNC’s upcoming “Celebrity” Tour.

In return for promoting the band and its concerts, AOL gains promotional opportunities as the “preferred” way to access the band’s official site, NSYNC.com. The site also will include information about America Online and AOL Instant Messenger. America Online software also could be included in *NSYNC CDs and CD-ROMs through the arrangement. AOL Music, additionally, will gain rights to develop co-branded advertising deals incorporating *NSYNC content.

At the same time, AOL will gear up promotional efforts for teen stars-turned-branding powerhouses Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

Through an agreement with the twins’ marketing company, Dualstar, AOL Time Warner will promote the Olsens to teen, “tween” and children on America Online.

America Online will launch several new “Mary-Kate and Ashley” content areas in its Kids Only channel, designed for kids age 9-12 years. The areas will include information on the Olsens’ fashion line and current projects. For instance, America Online will give members an exclusive sneak peek at the twins’ Spring 2002 collection at Wal-Mart; access to a sweepstakes promoting their upcoming films; and Olsen-branded health news and dating advice.

The agreement also will serve to drive traffic to the Olsen’s site, mary-kateandashley.com, and potentially, to upcoming Olsen ventures in the realm of video games, magazines and books.

The news continues the media giant’s long (and lucrative) work with the Olsens: Dualstar is the top supplier of family entertainment videos to AOL’s Warner Home Video. Warner Bros. Television produced the sitcom “Full House,” on which the twins got the start, while Warner Bros. distributed the twins’ last Hollywood release, 1995’s “It Takes Two.” Reportedly, the film studio also is in talks to distribute an upcoming Olsen feature.

The two deals also continue AOL’s efforts to boost its appeal with youngsters, a demographic that has access to a sizable amount of discretionary spending (thanks to mommy and daddy).

Increasingly, marketers are turning to online channels to reach those users, and for a good reason: teens represent some of the heaviest users of the Internet, generally for the purpose of socializing. A recent AOL study found that 81 percent of teens aged 12 to 17 actively use email, while 70 percent use instant messaging.

“Mary-Kate and Ashley have made their mark on the offline world with their unparalleled success in family entertainment through their work in television, movies, home video, books, videogames, their magazine, fashion dolls and accessories and fashion,” said Dualstar co-founder and chief executive Robert Thorne. “We are excited to team up with America Online to help expose their members to the Mary-Kate and Ashley’s unique lifestyle offerings.”

Added *NSYNC’s JC Chasez, “To be working with AOL provides a great opportunity to build a stronger connection to our fans around the world. There are so many amazing opportunities ahead of us, and together with AOL, we are bringing more of this excitement to our fans with online chats, concert tickets and previews of music and videos.”

Several other big-name marketers are following suit. Viacom’s MTV division recently announced that it would offer a co-branded personal computer geared for teen and college use, while PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay snack food unit recently said it planned to increase teen-focused Web marketing spending in lieu of big-budget TV campaigns.

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