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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 June, 2003, 21:48 GMT 22:48 UK
Pigeons boost tennis game
A pigeon, PA
Spray-painted pigeons are advertising Virtua Tennis 2
Pigeons are as much a part of Wimbledon as strawberries and cream but this year they may well be carrying a special message for tennis fans.

Acclaim, publishers of a video tennis game designed for PlayStation2, will be releasing specially trained homing pigeons, emblazoned with the game's logo.

Twenty birds will be spray-painted with the Virtua Tennis 2 logo and trained to fly in and out of the home of British tennis during the 2003 Wimbledon championships which start next week.

The novel marketing ploy is guaranteed to get both tennis and bird fans in a flap.

Flying billboard

It is not the first time games publisher Acclaim has employed unusual marketing tactics.

Last summer it supposedly persuaded five gaming fans to legally change their name to Turok, the hero of a game of the same name.

Acclaim is quick to stress that the homing pigeons have not suffered in the making of its latest marketing stunt.

"The specially trained pigeons will be branded in a harmless and fetching water-based paint that will cause no harm at all," the company said.

It will not be putting the cat among the pigeons with Wimbledon officials either.

The Lawn Tennis Association is well aware of the stunt the firm said and it was confident it would cause no disruption to important games.

"The homing pigeons will be released when the players are warming up and we will not let them land during games," said a spokeswoman for Acclaim.

The flying billboards have been trained to return to a secret base in south west London at the end of each day.

"The Virtua Tennis 2 pigeon marketing campaign is highly targeted as it brings awareness of the game directly to tennis enthusiasts," said Larry Sparks, vice president of marketing at Acclaim.

"The Wimbledon tournament is famous for the occasional descent by pigeons on to Centre Court, but our advertising pigeons are trained to go straight for the fans and flap their logos in front of them," he added.

The Virtua Tennis 2 game features players such as Tim Henman and the Williams sisters.

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