Yahoo! Anoints Winner of 10 MM Impressions

Yahoo today named a Phoenix-based exercise equipment maker as the winner of its “Think Big” contest to give away millions of ad impressions to an innovative small business.

StairCycle Innovations was selected from the nearly 8,000 entries received since the contest began in April. The company won 10 million free ad impressions across the Yahoo network, and a personal Yahoo Search Marketing account team to consult on sponsored search, contextual ads, local listings and graphical ads.

“Yahoo created the ‘Think Big’ contest to highlight the power of our search marketing platform to drive real-world results for businesses of all sizes,” Ted Meisel, president of Yahoo Search Marketing, said in a statement. “We look forward to helping StairCycle Innovations build brand and category awareness by reaching a vast consumer audience with its story, all the while taking its sales to the next level.”

The company, led by cardiovascular ultrasound specialist Craig Ridenhour, markets an exercise cycle that combines the benefits of a stair-step exercise system and a bicycle. The patented design resembles a scooter, with stair-step footboards that power the bicycle-sized wheels.

“I was impressed by the entries we received, many describing truly innovative products and sound business practices,” said Sir Richard Branson, chairman and founder of the Virgin Group, who judged the competition. “At the end of the day, it was StairCycle Innovations and Craig Ridenhour who caught my attention for their inventive product and entrepreneurial spirit.”

Yahoo is using the contest to raise awareness of its seach marketing unit’s name change, as well as to court small business advertisers. Yahoo hopes to increase ad spending by small businesses that are already online, and has launched other initiatives to appeal to those who are not, such as offering a free Web site for every U.S. small business with a physical location.

Small businesses are key to the local search plans of Yahoo, Google and others. The market has been limited by the difficulty in convincing local businesses to opt in to the programs. Search providers face stiff competition from yellow pages providers, who generally have large, on-the-ground sales forces and existing relationships with local merchants. Search providers have lately begun focusing on establishing direct relationships with these businesses.

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