Lycos Debuts New Ads, Signs Anna Kournikova As Spokeswoman

Terra Lycos will tap tennis superstar Anna Kournikova to promote its Web portal, Lycos, and lend her name to a contest running on the site.

Financial details weren’t disclosed of the campaign or of the multiyear deal with Kournikova.

Beginning this week, the tennis star will appear in Waltham, Mass.-based Lycos’s ads, encouraging users to register and enter the “Win Anna’s Stuff” contest on the Web portal.

A television spot features Kournikova giving away the keys to her BMW and playing with Lycos’s mascot, a black Labrador retriever (from the portal’s earlier campaign work by New York-based Bozell). A second spot will focus more on Lycos’ Sports vertical, and will air later this year.

Waltham-based Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, which won the Lyocs account last spring, designed the creatives.

In addition to the TV buy for the contest spot — which includes spots during CBS’s coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four and championship game, as well as MTV, VH1, E! and ESPN — Kournikova will appear in Lycos’ radio, print, online and outdoor ads.

The “Win Anna’s Stuff” sweepstakes involves upwards of $1 million in cash and prizes, and is entered by clicking on icons scattered across the Lycos Network or by playing games against other Lycos users.

The game is set up so that the more users click or play, the better their chances at winning. In addition to Kournikova’s Beemer, prizes include a sports watch and other Kournikova-inspired sports gear. The grand prize is an all-expense paid trip to the four “Grand Slam” tennis tournaments in Paris, London, New York and Australia.

The contest is aimed at boosting signups, building Lycos’ database of opt-in user information, and offering opt-in newsletters and offers from advertisers. Most of the click-to-enter prize promotions run through July 11, while play-for cash games run through December.

Terra Lycos said it tapped Kournikova because the Russian-born female tennis star was the most-searched athlete on Lycos’ search engine from June 1999 to June 2000, receiving more searches than Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods combined

Kournikova “connects in a way unlike any other celebrity,” said Steve Fund, vice president of brand marketing for Lycos. “She has broad appeal — to male and female, young and old. And she has global popularity — we’re a global company, and it’s a great fit.”

Fund also added that simply launching an extensive media campaign — which the company would describe only as being in the “multi-million dollar” range — points to Lycos’s strength.

“At a time when most other Internet companies are cutting back, we’re stepping up and making a powerful statement about the strength of the Lycos brand through aggressive marketing activities,” he said.

Lycos said that it would continue to use its relationship with Kournikova beyond the immediate ad campaign — launching auctions, chats and other promotional events later in the year.

“We think she’s a great property,” Fund said. “We’ll actively market her both online and offline.”

The effort comes as Lycos is attempting to shed the “search engine” image and portray itself as more of a full-featured portal. Its black Lab mascot — which “retrieved” items in previous creatives, is now shown digging — representing Lycos’ ability to let users “dig deeper” into information of interest to them. The company began the new positioning effort with three ads designed to show off verticals — sports, music, and travel — when it signed on with Hill, Holliday.

“We shifted our brand strategy when we signed on with Hill, Holliday,” Fund said. “We changed the brand message from being primarily a search engine to adding dimensions to Lycos beyond search. We’re really a ‘go to’ destination on the Web, versus a search engine — an array of sites provide deep, rich content.”

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