On Friday, Harrah's Entertainment and the 'worldwide leader in sports' ESPN finalized an agreement to continue their partnership in broadcasting the World Series of Poker through 2010. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
ESPN has broadcast the World Series Championship Event for the past eight years, with coverage expanding in 2004 to cover some of the preliminary events that make up the schedule of tournaments. In a remarkable move, it was also stated that the 2006 Championship Event will be broadcast two ways. ESPN will make available a pay per view live broadcast of the $10,000 tournament's final table in addition to the normal broadcast that will be shown later in the year, but details of that deal have not yet been released.
Harrah's also has announced a continuing deal for sponsorship of the tournament overall. The Miller Brewing Company and Milwaukee's Best Light have come aboard as the presenting sponsor and official beer of the tournament through 2008. Milwaukee's Best Light was the presenting sponsor for the 2005 event and the deal will continue with the start of this year's tournament on June 25th. The deal is the largest of its kind between a gaming entity and a corporate sponsor, according to Harrah's staff. Under terms of the agreement, Milwaukee's Best Light will be integrated into several components of the tournament and will promote the event nationally on a year round basis.
The sponsorship will be seen quite prominently during the World Series itself and during the broadcasts on ESPN. Not only will the lipstick cameras used to capture the action be called the "Milwaukee's Best Light Pocket Cam" but there will be a new logo created that incorporates both the World Series and Milwaukee's Best Light. The Milwaukee's Best Light Beer Garden will also have convenient positioning near the playing area for both players and fans to enjoy a refreshing brew during action at the tables.
"This is a game-changing alliance for the World Series of Poker," said World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack. "Miller Brewing is one of the top sports marketers in the world and Milwaukee's Best Light is a brand on the move that reflects our own sense of fun, creativity, excitement and authenticity. This pact further solidifies our position as the Number One poker brand in the world and helps introduce us as a change agent for a select group of consumer product companies."
The sponsorship from major corporations is what has been expected would come for some time in the poker world. With the current popularity of the game, as well as the further expansion into Europe, Asia and South America, it does seem that advertisers are beginning to identify that there is a significant customer base in the poker community. With both the Miller Brewing Company and ESPN extending their commitments with the World Series, can further sponsorship, not only of the game but of the players, be far behind?
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