Trump's Apprentice puts spotlight on Dick's Sports and merchandising

It was definitely a big ol' sweet treat, not a trick, for Dick's Sporting Goods on Donald Trump's popular reality show, "The Apprentice," on Oct. 27.

It was definitely a big ol' sweet treat, not a trick, for Dick's Sporting Goods on Donald Trump's popular reality show, "The Apprentice," on Oct. 27.

Two highly motivated teams of apprentice-wannabe's slammed into separate Dick's Sporting Goods stores with the assignment to create an interactive merchandising concept that would be spectacular, with the winning team chosen based on hard facts -- the store where revenues jumped the most on the one-day concept. Neither team knew a lot about sports, they admitted in planning; one chose golf only because it was a very popular activity; the other was talked into baseball by one team member who was a huge baseball fan.

With general contractors at their beck and call during planning and building, both teams swarmed into their respective Dick's stores, each one building monumental activity areas that would also incorporate appropriate merchandising to -- they hoped -- prompt sales. The golf-focused team, albeit with no real knowledge about golf, added education and kid's activity areas and managed to increase that day's revenues by a whopping 74 percent, the highest result in any Apprentice show, ever. The other team was so busy selling peanuts and teaching kids to bat they forget the goal was to sell. With such a huge area taken up by the concept, sales in that store actually went down by 34 percent, which according to Trump in the show's conclusion, was the worst performance by any team on any show, ever.

In a surprising conclusion, with two losing team members of course doing the necessary piss and moan and whine at each other, Trump "fired" not one, not two, but FOUR members of the losing team -- a first for the show that left jaws dropped.

So pleased was Dick's with the event and its exposure that it sponsored the reward at the end of the show -- a deep-sea fishing excursion with a private beach lobster and clam bake with the winners flown to the location on a private jet. The show's outcome apparently sparked Dick's to do its own interactive Apprentice-inspired promotion on Oct. 28-30 involving basketball.

Now about that exposure? Media research firm PQ Media estimated the value of product placement deals rose 30.5 percent in 2004 and likely would rise another 22.7 percent to $4.24 billion this year propelled by "marketers wary of ad-skipping technologies" -- like TiVo or a trip to the bathroom -- making TV exposure like this invaluable. Dick's has had a rocky road financially since its purchase of Galyan's, admitting it hasn't paid enough attention to store promotion. It said the Apprentice deal was an opportunity to raise awareness in the new Dick's markets as well as pump some energy into existing ones.

SNEWS® View: Raise awareness? Pump in energy? We'll say. We're sure Trump's producers and planners get swamped with requests by businesses to be a part of the show. Heck, why not? It's great exposure, no matter what happens. Bally managed the same exposure feat a few weeks ago too. Now, we'd also like to see the teams do something on a specialty level. Why doesn't some small specialty store -- hm, say in fitness or outdoor? -- pitch itself to Trump? Could be interesting, the results. Could be educational too, what motivated young Trump-wannabe's come up with.