- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2001

NEW YORK - ABC has signed a $25 million deal to promote the U.S. Military Academy at West Point through television specials and commercials.

Announced Tuesday, it shows how the lines between advertising and entertainment on television are blurring as clients seek something different from traditional commercials.

ABC, which is owned by the Walt Disney Co., promised to run a prime-time special next June, "Young America Celebrates West Point." The deal also includes other properties wholly or partly owned by Disney - ESPN, The History Channel, Lifetime, A&E;, ABC Radio and even ESPN magazine.

The deal between ABC and the West Point Project LLC, a group of West Point alumni, was in the works before the Sept. 11 attacks. But Joseph Franklin, a retired general who's the chief adviser for the West Point Project, said it was a "wonderful coincidence" that ABC was featuring the military at a time of war.

Keyed to the U.S. Military Academy's 200th anniversary, the purpose of the ad campaign is to help West Point's recruiting, he said.

Besides the prime-time special, a vignette series called "West Point Minute" will air on ABC News programs "Good Morning America" and "Nightline." They will be clearly marked advertising, the network said.

Noted sports filmmaker Bud Greenspan is making a two-hour documentary on West Point's sports history to air on ESPN. ESPN Classic will air an Army football special titled "Field of Honor" and rebroadcast old Army football games.

The History Channel will air a two-hour documentary on people who have attended West Point called, "The Long Grey Line," a four-hour film on West Point's history and a one-hour special, "West Point & The Movies."

An ad and programming campaign will also air on Lifetime, with the goal of promoting the military as an option for young women.

Worried that people are tuning out traditional advertising, clients have been looking for new ways to get their messages across. Besides the approach taken by West Point, CBS has sold product placement opportunities on shows like "Survivor."

ABC has other deals signed or in the works, although none with programming options as extensive as West Point, said Bill Bund, senior vice president of sales at ABC.

West Point alumni are either paying for the air time directly or selling advertising time on the programs. American Airlines is participating, and other companies are expected to sign on soon, project representatives said.


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