Monster Train: Lost boards the Las Vegas Monorail.

On the newest fast track in Sin City, the Las Vegas Monorail will whisk you from casino to casino approximately twenty feet above the street and at speeds up to 50 mph. And if you’re riding in the inaugural four-car train, you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and watch surf-video clips from Lost Enterprises. “A surf video in Vegas? you ask. So how did this happen? And how did Lost score such prime — albeit unusual — advertising space?

It all began about a year ago when Monster Energy Drink (a subsidiary of Hansen’s Beverage Company) approached Lost, interested in teaming up as a way to get involved with surfing. According to Mark Hall, a senior VP at Hansen’s better known as “The Monster Man, Hansen’s has always been involved with action sports (motocross, freestyle, and mountain biking) yet for some reason avoided surfing. But when Hansen’s sponsored the Energy Pro in O’ahu, the company’s executives’ eyes opened to the benefits of pairing with surfing. So Monster cosponsored the Lost Surf Jam, and Lost CEO Joel Cooper says that’s just the start of their work together. Lost intends to expand its interaction with Hansen’s, and Cooper feels the partnership, and perhaps the monorail, is the perfect vehicle for both companies.

According to Hall, the key to Monster sponsoring the Las Vegas Monorail train was to get the first train and all the media and PR blitz that goes along with it. And coverage has been plentiful — articles have appeared everywhere from small weekly Vegas papers to The Wall Street Journal, which made specific reference to Lost.

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While Cooper admits that Las Vegas isn’t exactly the core of the surf market, coverage the monorail train is receiving gives more visibility to Lost across the board. “Is it going to drive sales? he asks. “No. It’s just another marketing tool. We benefit more from their {Monster’s} involvement with the surf activities on the beach than with the monorail. But Cooper also notes that Monster has a good image and is marketing to the same demographic (fourteen-to-24-year-old males are the target for energy drinks, according to Hall) as Lost, and the publicity connected to the monorail certainly won’t hurt.

Las Vegas is the most visited city in the U.S., receiving about 35-million visitors a year. Hall names Los Angeles as the largest energy-drink market. Additionally, 30 percent of Vegas visitors come from So Cal, surf’s epicenter. And an estimated nineteen-million people are projected to shell out the three bucks to ride the monorail once it begins its routes in mid to late January 2004. That’s quite a captive audience.

Both Hall and Cooper agree that Lost and Monster fit together well, portraying a similar vibe. And Hall hopes to bring in new customer interest through the monorail train. In order to do that, he says, they had to make sure the train was super eye-catching. Seeing that it’s painted black and green to resemble a giant can of Monster Energy Drink, there’s no denying that people will take notice. “The train’s decorated wild on the outside and funky inside, Hall explains. There will be plasma screens inside the cars showing action-sports videos, including clips from Lost.

Cooper says Lost will give Monster footage from various Lost videos, and the Monster team will also be able to pick updated content from Lost’s Web site to include in the show. Lost’ll also provide items for decoration inside the trains, although exactly what product will be placed there hasn’t been finalized yet.

The Las Vegas Monorail’s private backers spent 650-million dollars to make their vision a reality, and they’re hoping to regain this money via advertising. Once the monorail is fully operational, the trains will commence running from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. seven days a week. The initial route will run four miles along the east side of the Strip, connecting to various points along Las Vegas Boulevard. The monorail tracks begin on the southern end at the MGM Grrand and stop on the northern end at the Las Vegas Hilton, with hopes to eventually extend service to the airport, Fremont Street, and the west side of the strip.

For a mere one-million dollars a year for ten years, Hansen’s is guaranteed the advertising space on the inside and out of the first car of the train. Hall says it’s money well spent. The lead car is the one likely to gain the lionshare of exposure, and the one least likely to be overwhelmed by the general sensory overload of Sin City.

As for Lost, no money came out of its pockets, but Cooper believes that the exposure this and other large corporate sponsors, like Philips and Honda, are bringing will benefit the surf industry tremendously. Cooper says he knows that Hansen’s has invested a lot in this venture: “We’re {Lost} just along for the ride, literally.

— Amy Sandlin