Sony, Yahoo! in Marketing Deal

Sony Corp. of America will be advertising with Web portal Yahoo!, in a multi-year deal that sees Yahoo! following America Online’s lead in striking partnerships with consumer electronics leaders.

Through the deal, financial terms of which were not disclosed, Yahoo! will create a co-branded content area, dubbed “Sony on My Yahoo!.” The site will incorporate personalized content from Yahoo!’s My Yahoo page, but will be geared for Sony enthusiasts, with links to the company’s products and news.

In conjunction with Sony on My Yahoo!, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based portal also said it would create co-branded versions of the Yahoo! Companion Web browser toolbar and Yahoo! Messenger instant message application.

The Sony on My Yahoo! effort comes in addition to more direct pitches to Yahoo!’s audiences for the consumer products colossus’ wares. For instance, New York-based Sony’s e-commerce site will receive prominent placement on Yahoo! Shopping, and throughout the Yahoo! site.

Ads for specific Sony products also will run throughout Yahoo!. Specifics of the media plan were not disclosed, but Yahoo! said that the push would take advantage of its targeted ad products, measurement, optimization and analysis.

Sony also said it would use the portal to promote movie releases from its Sony Pictures Entertainment division. Specifically, Sony said it would run online ad promotions for its upcoming films “Ali,” “The Panic Room” and “Deeds.”

“Sony’s agreement with Yahoo! will allow us to offer customers information specific to their interests in Sony,” said Sony of America chairman and chief executive Howard Stringer. “It will also give us the ability to have more direct customer relationships across all Sony companies. This relationship will serve as one of the models for Sony’s expansion into digital media in the 21st Century.”

In return for all of this marketing consideration, Yahoo! stands to benefits from increased exposure to Sony customers, which trend toward the higher end among buyers of consumer electronics.

For one, Sony’s VAIO computers will be preloaded with software to register for membership on Yahoo! and for product information from Sony. Lately, the presence of pre-installed software has become a big priority for Internet media firms, with America Online and Microsoft’s MSN duking it out over rights to place their icons on PC makers’ desktops.

Additionally, Sony on My Yahoo! also will become the default start page of Sony’s ISP service, Sony Style Connect.

Finally, Yahoo! also will take home a consulting contract for a revamp of Sony’s U.S. corporate portal, which the firms said they envision becoming an “interconnected Web community” of Sony product users.

The deal is good news for Yahoo!, which has been lagging behind competitors America Online (a unit of AOL Time Warner) and MSN in striking big deals with offline firms.

Since new chairman and chief executive Terry Semel took the helm in May, Yahoo!’s management has been working to establish a firm foundation of deals with big-name, big-budget traditional advertisers.

The deal also echoes the same sorts of partnerships Yahoo!’s competitors have struck lately. Earlier this month, AOL signed a similar co-marketing deal with Royal Philips Electronics.

Indeed, AOL’s bevy of online and offline properties have aided the media titan in signing several advertising deals recently, with names like Covad, Radio Shack and Samsung — a harder feat for an Internet-only play like Yahoo!.

Nevertheless, Yahoo!’s executives are confident, describing vast resources that the portal can muster for advertisers.

“Sony’s tremendous strength in electronics and entertainment coupled with Yahoo!’s brand strength and 200 million users globally provide a formidable platform to deliver meaningful offerings that are exciting and entertaining to our audiences,” Semel said.

Jeff Mallet, Yahoo!’s president and chief operating officer, added that since its launch six years ago, the portal “has become a leading global brand with the most engaged and loyal audience on the Web, representing a valuable currency to exchange for access to leading content or distribution services.”

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