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Fund Companies Shun TV Sports Advertising

Mutual fund advertisers are eschewing network television advertising during sporting events in favor of buying billboard space at and sponsoring such events, according to FRC, a mutual fund research firm in Boston.

In "Signs of the Fund Advertising Times," FRC concludes that fund companies are discouraged by the clutter of TV advertising and are branching into other sports advertising opportunities. FRC published the report last month.

Financial service companies slashed their TV advertising budgets for sports programming dramatically in the first quarter of this year, the FRC report said. In the first quarter of 1999, financial services companies bought 25 percent of all network TV sports programming advertising spots, down dramatically from 58 percent of such spots in 1998 and 49 percent of such spots in 1997. FRC used data from Competitrack, a New York advertising tracking service.

A number of golfers during the U.S. Open wore clothing with mutual fund names and logos, FRC said.

"John Cook and Bob Estes wore caps emblazoned with Kemper Funds," FRC said. "Payne Stewart, the 1999 U.S. Open champion, sported Legg Mason Funds patches on his sleeves. LPGA golfer Janice Moodie more conspicuously displayed a Franklin Templeton logo on the front of her shirt."

Fund companies are also following in the footsteps of automotive companies in sponsoring sporting events, FRC said. Charles Schwab & Co. of San Francisco calls itself "The Official Investment Firm of the PGA," MFS Investment Management of Boston has sponsored various pro tennis tournaments for the past two years, and Phoenix Investment Partners of Greenfield, Mass., will sponsor a doubles tournament in Hartford, Conn. this November, FRC said.