RadioShack plans Lunar Mission
by Victor Godinez (The Dallas Morning News)
06/15/2000 -- Fort Worth-based RadioShack Corp. said today that it is partnering with a small Virginia-based space exploration start-up to put a robotic rover on the moon in 2003 sporting the RadioShack logo.
Dubbed the "Icebreaker," the lunar rover will search for ice deposits in the permanently dark spots on the moon, such as craters, in an attempt to locate possible fuel sources for future space travel.
"It's an unorthodox form of brand sponsorship," acknowledged Jim McDonald, senior vice president of marketing and advertising for RadioShack. "But it's very difficult in this day and age to break through the clutter."
Under terms of the deal, the giant electronics retailer will provide LunaCorp with money to finance the expedition. In return, RadioShack gets to place the company logo on the rover as well as in several terrestrial venues.
The goal, Mr. McDonald said, is to link the mission to RadioShack's Web site as well as to create relevant product placement within the company's 7,100 electronics stores nationwide.
Web surfers will be able to log on to RadioShack's Web site and, because Icebreaker will be able to transmit live video over a broadband connection with mission control, watch real-time video footage of the rover exploring the lunar surface.
The video also will be downloaded to RadioShack stores equipped with RCA's home digital theater demonstrations.
Consumers will be able to experience the "digital next wave of audio visual technology," Mr. McDonald said. "What we're trying to do is demystify technology and democratize space."
LunaCorp, based in Arlington, Va., hopes to bankroll its mission through corporate sponsorships, government contracts and other revenue-generating efforts.
For RadioShack and its estimated annual investment of about $1 million, the payoff should come in the form of additional exposure. Mr. McDonald said he expects the company to recoup the investment before the rocket even takes off.
RadioShack also will benefit from increased sales representative motivation as a result of the enterprise, said Mr. McDonald. Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, for example, has signed on to help promote the exploration.
When Mr. Aldrin spoke recently to RadioShack sales representatives, "there was an almost religious reaction to the speech," Mr. McDonald said.
Mr. McDonald said says that RadioShack is not looking on this investment as a one-time deal.
"We are interested in a long-term involvement relative to space exploration,'' he said. "I personally would love to do something in the realm of live advertising from outer space or the moon."
RadioShack stock was up 94 cents in midday trading to $42.56. LunaCorp is privately held.