Yahoo Shoots for High School and College Sports Fans with Rivals.com Buy

Yahoo has acquired Rivals.com, a site focused on high school and college football and basketball, in a move company officials believe will open a wide array of advertising opportunities.

“The number one demand we’re getting from major advertising clients is more college and high school content,” said Jimmy Pitaro, VP and general manager of Yahoo Sports.

As part of Yahoo Sports, Rivals.com will offer sponsorships as well as run-of-site ads and chances for advertisers to tie in with video offerings, said Pitaro. Among Rivals.com’s most popular features are videos of stand-out players, short clips viewed both by recruiters and fans. “Rivals has a compelling array of recruiting videos,” said Pitaro. “This is a chance for us to take that and package it to an advertiser.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Pitaro said Rivals has its own full-time ad sales staff, run by Deidre GaNun, that will not be dissolved. “The intention is to keep the Rivals team intact,” he said.”She will become a key member of Yahoo Sports senior executive team and sales team. We are going to rely on her heavily.”

Pitaro said Yahoo Sports has mainly focused on sports at a national level. By buying Rivals, Yahoo can become “a one-stop shop for all your national and local sports content,” he said.

Rivals has a network of more than 150 individual Web sites that “with little marketing effort and sales support” attract about two million fans monthly, said Yahoo in announcing the deal. In a statement, Rivals.com CEO Shannon Terry said coming under the Yahoo Sports umbrella will give Rivals.com sites “exposure to millions of additional sports fans as well as marketing, sales and engineering support which were previously unavailable to our company.”

As an example of the type of localized advertising opportunities the deal presents for Yahoo, Pitaro cited Rivals.com’s weekly “All the Way to Friday” feature where Rivals.com “goes to a local football game and covers it in various ways,” including vignettes, behind-the-scenes footage, highlights and post-game information. “That video is being offered to (advertising) clients exclusively,” he said. “In the past, it’s had sponsorships like Gatorade tied to it.”

But local advertisers will also be kept in the mix as part of Yahoo’s “local strategy,” according to Pitaro. “We’ve been in the process of signing deals with local newspapers to get their content on our site or to link off from Yahoo Sports to their local sites with the idea being to present this local content to our advertisers,” he said.

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