IAR Bits and Bytes

U.S. Olympic Committee Taps RealTime Media for Online Sweepstakes

The U.S. Olympic Committee is debuting a new Web sweepstakes, in a bid to boost its outreach and sales to American sports fans.

Beginning this week, the “Gold Medal” sweepstakes, created by RealTime Media, will offer a trip for two to the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics Winder Games. Registrants must enter at USOlympicTeam.com

“The sweepstakes not only will increase awareness of and drive traffic to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s official site, but also develop a database of Olympic Games fans,” said John Hopper, chief executive at Wynnewood, Penn.-based RealTime. “It will also raise awareness of the U.S. Olympic Team’s online store.”

The promotion is supported by an ad campaign in USA Today, U.S. Olympic Committee publications and on USOC-affiliated and sponsor Web sites, as well as through an e-mail push to fans who registered in the past for U.S. Olympic information.

Additionally, the promotion also incorporates an incentivized Tell-A-Friend referral program, in which participants can earn additional sweepstakes entries by forwarding information to others. Fans can enter daily, while receiving up to five additional entries each day through referrals.

“The addition of the viral marketing campaign is the key to the promotion and will add longevity and create tremendous excitement around the promotion,” said Matt Mannelly, the USOC’s chief marketing officer. “We feel this promotion will be another vehicle to help connect Americans with our athletes.”

The promotion runs through August 31, 2001.

CoolSavings Cuts Staff

In connection with its recently announced funding, Chicago-based CoolSavings said it would be restructuring its organization.

In addition to the previously announced departure of chairman and chief executive Stephen Golden, the online incentive marketer said it would cut about 26 percent of its staff, or 47 employees.

The reductions, along with the infusion of up to $15 million in capital from media firm Landmark Communications, should be enough to help CoolSavings to reach breakeven by the end of 2001.

In March, the company had backed down from promises of reaching breakeven by the end of the year, revealing that it did not have enough cash to fuel it for three more quarters.

“While a reduction in work force is always a difficult decision, it is sometimes necessary to take the company to its next phase of growth and development,” said Matthew Moog, the company’s president and newly appointed CEO. “We have worked hard to create a sound foundation and solid business model and sincerely appreciate the contributions of each of our team members.”

Spiderdance, Princeton Video Image Launch iTV Promotion

Interactive television player Spiderdance is partnering with TV production firm Princeton Video Image to link their services in a bid to make them more appealing to advertisers and television producers.

According to the deal, Venice, Calif.-based Spiderdance and PVI will co-market a product suite that joins PVI’s video insertion system with Spiderdance’s TruSync technology.

The companies said they are targeting award shows, sports telecasts and special event programming with the combined product suite, which would allow users to interact with their TVs using an Internet-connected PC.

While Spiderdance contributes the PC-to-iTV connectivity, Lawrenceville, N.J.-based PVI’s insertion system would enable broadcasters to insert data feeds from iTV input. (PVI is perhaps best known for its “first down line” graphic on NFL football broadcasts on CBS.

The result would be, in one example, a live broadcast in which results from viewers’ online voting appears in real time on TV.

Interactive shop itemus Files for Chapter 11

Canadian interactive shop itemus filed for bankruptcy this week, joining the host of casualties from the battered Web services and marketing sector.

Earlier this year, the Web shop bought film and TV studio and distributor Shooting Gallery — best known for producing the Billy Bob Thornton vehicle “Sling Blade.” At the time, the $56 million deal was characterized as a way to link traditional media capabilities with new media Web development.

But according to a note posted on the company’s Web site from chief executive Jim Tobin, the company ran out of cash when it was unable to find an interested buyer or investor.

“Our efforts, to build a Canadian technology services and products leader, are over,” reads the note. “Over the past few weeks, board members and management sought any conceivable merger, new investment, or sale of assets or the entire company. We uncovered promising options, yet could not secure adequate relief — from our recently acquired Shooting Gallery’s creditors — to close deals.”

The news hadn’t been surprising: earlier last month, the company had reported that it was seeking to line up a sale, pending a cash crisis.

In addition to “bottomless” problems related to the Shooting Gallery acquisition, in his letter Tobin also cites deferred payments from clients and delayed contracts as causes for the company’s failure.

Nevertheless, Tobin wrote he largely blamed unspecified problems associated with the Shooting Gallery purchase, and had asked the company’s court trustee to pursue unspecified legal actions.

Spokespeople from itemus did not return calls seeking comment.

Netcentives Reorganizes, Seeks Funding

San Francisco-based incentive marketer Netcentives said a company-wide restructuring plan will begin with a workforce reduction.

The cuts will see the company’s staff levels decrease from 345 to 180. In addition, and as part of the company’s restructuring process, Netcentives said it is working on reducing its debt, divesting unspecified “non-core assets,” and otherwise preserving cash flow to fund business operations.

During its second quarter earnings report last week, chairman and CEO Eric Larsen said the company does not have enough remaining in its cash stores to reach profitability. At its current burn rate of $15.3 million — not including the layoffs — the company said it would have enough to last about one more quarter.

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