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New York Yankees run ad-supported SMS alerts

The Yes Network, the official TV channel of MLB's New York Yankees, is running free-to-consumer, ad-supported SMS alerts.

The text-message alerts are powered by 4Info. The initiative lets consumers get news and score alerts for their favorite teams on their mobile phone and gives advertisers the opportunity to reach Yankee fans.

"SMS alerts are something that we started doing as a way to provide enhanced value to our customers so that our viewers can get up-to-date scores and news from the Yes Network," said Michael Spirito, vice president of business development and digital for the Yes Network, New York. "It's an opportunity to extend our brand into the mobile universe, and we've seen it grow in popularity over time.

"4Info came highly recommended and they've done a great job for us," he said. "Through 4Info, consumers can sign up for any team they want, but we're only promoting the Yankees."

First, consumers choose what kinds of SMS alerts they'd like to receive on the Yes Network Web site, such as news and score updates in categories including "Yankees News," "Nets News" and "Local Sports News."

In addition to Yankees content, the Yes Network runs SMS alerts for the NBA's New Jersey Nets. 4Info offers SMS alerts for the four major sports: MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL.

After consumers enter their mobile phone number, 4Info then sends a text message with a five-digit code, which the consumer must enter into the portal on the Yes Network Web site.

Consumers then receive the following text message confirming their opt-in:

"Welcome to 4Info alerts! Questions? Contact or text HELP. Text STOP to stop anytime. Std/other charges may apply."

Consumers can also text the keyword GOYANKS to the short code 4INFO, or 44636.

"The minute salient news about the team hits our Web site, it's going to be editorialized and put into a text message for our subscribers," Mr. Spirito said. "We make sure only the top-line news stories are going out, no more than three-to-five per day.

"4Info has a great team of editors who've done a great job of adapting our editorial voice over time and making sure that we are heard throughout the mobile platform," he said.

Major League Baseball's is also conducting various mobile initiatives in an effort to reach out to baseball fans (see story).

The Yes Network is also running text-to-vote campaigns during TV broadcasts of games featuring the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets and Major League Baseball's New York Yankees (see story).

Opportunity for advertisers
The Yankees SMS alerts are promoted on-air during Yes Network broadcasts, as well as on the Web site.

Brands advertising within the Yes text messages range from Papa John's and Avis to TV networks such as HBO, Starz and Spike. The SMS alerts contain branding messages or click to various actions.

"We've had some really good uptake so far and we've sold a good amount of ad inventory," Mr. Spirito said. "Advertisers get directly in front of consumers, the most ardent fans who can't be away from the content we have and want most up-to-date information possible.

"Advertisers want to get in front of these people and we've been successful selling the ad inventory," he said. "Its appeal to advertisers is connecting their brand to a brand like the Yankees that many people love."

The following are examples of text-message alerts sent out by 4Info on behalf of the Yes Network:

"YANKEESNEWS Derek Jeter rejoined the Yankees and helped the Bombers to a 7-1 victory over the Red Sox. *$50 off a 30-day mini lease Reply AVIS"

"YANKEESNEWS A.J Burnett continued his great spring with 4 perfect innings in the Yankees' 3-1 win over Houston. *Laid off? Get insurance now! Reply COVER"

"YANKEESNEWS Jorge Posada's return behind the plate was a successful one, as he went 2-for-2 in the Yankees' 5-1 win. *News, sports, weather!"

"YANKEESNEWS Joba Chamberlain allowed two hits over three scoreless innings Monday in the Yanks' 12-0 win. *Hot MP3 Downloads!"

"YANKEESNEWS Chien-Ming Wang pitched 5 impressive innings in the Yankees' 4-1 win over the Astros on Wednesday. *Want to win a trip to Vegas? Reply MAN"

"YANKEESNEWS The Yankees got offensive contributions from a number of players and skated past the Blue Jays, 7-4. *UFC: US vs. UK on Spike! Reply FIGHT"

The following are examples of other ad messages at the bottom of Yes Network's SMS messages:

"*FREE HBO and Starz! Reply SATELLITE"

"*Relpy TOURNEY if you love bball"

"*Get Messenger now!"

"*Boyfriend hot or not? Find out. Reply HOTTIE"

"*News, sports, weather!"

"*Kanye Ringtones!"

"*Brand New Ringtones!"

"They have an audience, like a lot off sports audiences, that wants immediacy and wants to know what's going on with the Yankees wherever they are," said Patricia Clark, regional vice president of sales for 4Info, New York. "The challenge we addressed for YES was helping them to connect to Yankee fans via their handsets in a really easy way, with not a lot of heavy lifting on their part.

"We provide a mobile solution that can tie into the other types of media that they're offering, from TV and online to print and billboards," she said. "SMS alerts can help brands create an ongoing dialogue with people and help tighten up their relationship with people, because consumers can hear from them on an ongoing basis."

In addition to offering opportunities for brand advertisers, it offers a monetization opportunity for the Yes Network.

"People love to get stuff for free, especially when the free stuff is valued information like getting a Yankees score on the go," Ms. Clark said. "When consumers have a positive association with a brand, the Yes Network can make money on it, as they have advertising within the text messages.

"We make the implementation super easy, so Yes doesn't need its own short code or carrier approval, and we provide account management," she said. "It's a great partnership, and we're currently talking about how to take it to the next level."