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Canon's Maria Mania to Invade Manhattan for U.S. Open

Canon U.S.A. is aiming for a picture-perfect promotion that has New Yorkers doing double, triple, or quadruple takes as the company serves up Maria Sharapova look-alikes on the streets of Manhattan as part of its U.S. Open tennis sponsorship.

More than 20 doubles of the photogenic tennis ace will canvass Manhattan from Aug. 28 to Sept. 4 to promote new line of PowerShot digital cameras that will launch the same week. The more than six-feet tall and blonde look-alikes will help passer-bys keep cool by handing out 80,000 branded fans. They will also distribute 100,000 branded subway maps with information on routes to the Open and Canon products. The "Marias", as they've been dubbed, will pose for pictures with consumers and challenge tennis fans to see if they can beat Sharapova's fastest serve at various Canon PowerShot Zones throughout the city.

PowerShot Zone locations include New York City's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, the South Street Seaport, Greeley Square, Union Square, Times Square and Columbus Circle.

"From Canon's standpoint, the U.S. Open is arguably the biggest sporting event in the metro New York area," said Canon spokesperson Rick Booth.

To kick off its sponsorship, on the tournament's opening day on Aug. 28, Canon will set up a tennis court on the flight deck of the Intrepid, an aircraft carrier museum, where it will feature the look-alikes, tennis stars John McEnroe and the Jensen brothers, and an interactive zone where consumers can test their serves and view Canon products. Local radio station Z100 will give away Canon PowerShot cameras on site and on air through various contests.

During the promotion consumers can visit to find out the locations of the Marias. Consumers can enter a sweepstakes on the Web site from Aug. 21 through Sept. 10 that dangles a trip for two to watch Sharapova play anywhere in the world as a grand prize.

The promotion sprung out of a unique challenge Canon faced in its sponsorship of the U.S. Open this year:Its competitor, Olympus, swept up the camera category rights to the event. As a result, Canon was forced to be creative and develop a program to promote its cameras without being on the grounds of the U.S. Tennis Association's Tennis Center and without the use of Sharapova's time as she focuses on the tournament.

"It gave us the opportunity to do something new and different," Booth said. "Having Maria as a spokesperson allows us to cut through the clutter and noise around the U.S. Open. We've developed a 360-degree program that reaches consumers from a number of different angles."

To support the campaign, Canon ads featuring Sharapova break during the Open on CBS and USA Network. Canon will also sponsor the USA Today's special section on Aug. 25. A four-page special insert will appear in the New Yorker, New York Magazine, Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times. Meanwhile two mobile billboards placed on an expressway near the tournament are designed to catch fans' attention as they travel to and from the Tennis Center.

New York City-based Ion handles the event; Edelman's New York office handles p.r.; Dentsu America Inc. handles the ad campaign.

This is not Canon's first foray into the tennis arena. In the 1990s Canon tapped Andre Agassi for an Image is Everything ad campaign. Lake Success, NY-based Canon signed Sharapova to promote its PowerShot brand in 2004.

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