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WSOP: Striking While the Iron is Hot

The World Series of Poker has reached unprecedented popularity in the last few years, and it's steadily growing at that. This year's tournament at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev. is witness to record crowds and participants, with jam packed gaming areas filled with audiences crossing their fingers to be called for a spot on the gaming table.

Harrah's Entertainment have been quick to capitalize on the frenzy that the game is creating, and is now in the process of cementing poker as one of the big players in the professional sports league. Aptly enough, the new commissioner for Harrah's entertainment Jeffrey Pollack is no stranger to pro sports leagues, having previously worked for NASCAR and the NBA.

"Poker is an authentic piece of Americana as much as baseball," said Jeffrey Pollack, Harrah's vice president of sports and entertainment marketing. "Poker is not a luxury property and we're not the NFL. But by some accounts, poker is the number one participation game in the country, and that's the market we're hoping to tap into."

Pollack has been at the helm of the WSOP and was responsible for the major deals made with top endorsers for this year's series. The raining in of big sponsors is further proof of the popularity of the sport. ESPN has renewed its contract with the WSOP, Miller Brewing Co. is an official partner (Milwaukee's Best Light is the tournament's official beer) as well as Glu Mobile, America Online, Corum as the official watch and timekeeper, and video game producer Activision.

Actual figures have not been disclosed by Harrah's, but The Wall Street Journal has reported that the ESPN and Miller deals alone are at an estimated $20 million combined. Harrah's had let on that the deal between the WSOP and the brewing company is possibly the largest ever negotiated between a gaming entity and a corporate sponsor.

The presence of such sponsorships that extend longer than just the event proper is key to its staying power. Pollack said that these partnerships will be responsible for the maintenance of the tour's presence in the minds of fans (as well as familiarity to most people) during off-season.

"The NBA doesn't stop marketing in the offseason, and these sponsorships will keep our product in the public eye during our offseason, which is about 10 months, " Pollack said. "Our goal was to partner with companies that work well for both products."

"When people think of Wimbledon, they think of the ultimate expression of tennis. When they think of the WSOP, I want them to have the same connotation, " Pollack has been quoted as saying. "Our job is to cement our No. 1 status even further and build the business in a way that it has never been built before."


09/05/2006, Tuesday
Sherry Barlow

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