Pokémon gets up on soapbox

Seems like companies are all searching for that elusive advertising venue these days, that crowd of potential customers that haven’t yet realized how badly they need to purchase games and toys. Or maybe I’m just hearing about the various promotional experiments more often, and they were happening all along. Most anything seems fair game, from WizKids’ yogurt give-away figures, to Hasbro slinging action figures at a kids’ event in Phoenix that featured, of all things, a big mud puddle. Now Nintendo of America is getting inventive with the latest Pokémon promotion, and joining the list of sponsors for the All-American Soap Box Derby tomorrow in Akron, OH (press release below). Makes sense, really. All those kids, at an all-day event with their parents, many of whom will have wallets.

Nintendo of America press release follows:



REDMOND, WA, July 30, 2004 – Nintendo of America Inc., distributor of both
video and card games for the Pokémon® franchise, announced today it would
join a prestigious group of sponsors for the All-American Soap Box Derby
(AASBD). The finals are Saturday, July 31, 2004 at Derby Downs in Akron,
Ohio and the Pokémon Trading Card Game will be there in force to support
the 67th running of the event.

Pokémon enters the winner’s circle of this American tradition as a sponsor
for the first time this year. As part of their sponsorship, the company
will also showcase the ever-popular VW Beetle, whose bright yellow chassis
is painted to resemble the franchise’s beloved character, Pikachu.

A Pokémon Trading Card Game play area will be available throughout the day
so spectators can learn to play the Pokémon TCG. The Pokémon Trading Card
Game is also featured on the AASBD website, and the logo will be seen on
all participating derby race cars.

The Soap Box Derby offers three racing divisions that allow racers to
compete at different levels of experience – Stock (for beginners), Super
Stock Car (for more advanced competitors) and Masters (for expert
racer/builders). Cars must be constructed by the racers, with only minimal
guidance from adults.

“We are proud to be a part of the All-American Soap Box Derby as a sponsor
this year, and feel the Pokémon Trading Card Game experience echoes the
core values inherent in the Soap Box Derby traditions,” says Gail Tilden,
Nintendo’s Vice President, Brand Management. “In both, children learn the
value of fair play and healthy competition.”

Last year, more than 400 boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 16 years
old, from 43 states and four countries, earned the right to race in the
Derby and race officials expect nearly 500 racers attending this year.
Since the race’s inception, over a million youngsters have competed in the
Derby. Using vehicles powered only by gravity’s effect on an inclined
hill, the Soap Box Derby has become synonymous with kids’ independent
spirit and ingenuity.

Pokémon USA, Inc., a subsidiary of The Pokémon Company in Japan, manages
and oversees the property outside of Asia, which includes licensing
activities; brand promotions; publication of the trading card game; TV
animation; home video entertainment; the official Pokémon website; the
Pokémon Center NY in Rockefeller Center and pokemoncenter.com, an
e-commerce site. Pokémon was launched in Japan in 1996 for play on
Nintendo’s Game Boy® and has evolved into a global cultural phenomenon.
Pokémon was introduced in North America in September of 1998 and has since
generated over $15 billion in worldwide sales. More than 38 million
Pokémon video games have been sold in the U.S., including Pokémon Ruby and
Pokémon Sapphire, which were the #2 and #3 best-selling video games of
2003*. The trading card game, fueled by organized play programs around the
world, has spurred global sales of more than 13 billion cards to date,
while the Pokémon animated series on Kids’ WB!, now in its sixth season,
consistently ranks within the top three shows for boys ages 6-11. For more
information, visit www.pokemon.com

* According to the NPD Group

As the worldwide leader and innovator in the creation of interactive
entertainment, Nintendo Co., Ltd., of Kyoto, Japan, manufactures and
markets hardware and software for its popular home video game systems. The
systems include Game Boy®, Nintendo 64®, Game Boy® Advance, Game Boy® Advance SP and Nintendo Game CubeT. Since the release of its first home video game system in 1983, Nintendo has sold more than 1.8 billion video
games worldwide, creating enduring industry icons such as MarioT and Donkey
Kong® and launching such franchises as ZeldaT and Pokémon®. Nintendo of
America Inc. has marketed and distributed Pokémon video games in North
America since 1998. Pokémon-e TCG: EX Ruby & Sapphire marked NOA’s first
release in the Pokémon TCG product line. As a wholly owned subsidiary,
Nintendo of America Inc., based in Redmond, Washington, serves as
headquarters for Nintendo’s operations in the Western Hemisphere. For more
information about Nintendo, visit the company’s website, www.nintendo.com.