The finals of the Hip-Hop Gaming League's second season will kick off on Feb. 16 in Las Vegas, with a raft of media tie-ins and heavyweight sponsorships.

Rapper Snoop Dogg returns as chairman of the online tournament, which features 32 stars of hip-hop music and professional sports competing in various video games for prizes. This season, regular folks are competing in a parallel league for a chance to go to the finals.

GGL Inc., formerly named the Global Gaming League, is the Santa Monica-based company behind the league. The event has become a major promotion tool for the firm, with major sponsorship money coming from Microsoft Corp. (most of the games will be played on its Xbox console) and the Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite.

"Hip-hop music, celebrities, the Internet and gaming are driving and defining the alternative-to-mainstream culture for 14- to 34-year-olds today," said Ted Owen, GGL chairman and founder. "It's tough to know which has more influence, but by bringing them all together, the GGL is at the epicenter of this cultural revolution."

The league has lined up some heavy media partners. Viacom Inc.'s MTV will provide online coverage of the tournament. Sister station Spike TV will feature the tourney on its weekly show "Game Head," with a special episode in early March to document the HHGL Finals.

Time Warner Inc.'s America Online will promote the event on its co-branded GameDaily site, giving gamers the opportunity to play one of HHGL's celebrities as part of the "HHGL Nite" each Wednesday. In print, the league will work with the Vibe Magazine Group and its affiliated TV operations available on Comcast cable systems.

"This time around, the fans are going to get into the game," Commissioner Snoop Dogg said in a press release, "going up against superstars like my main man Eric V, B-Real, David Banner, Lupe Fiasco, Lil' Wayne, Warren G, Cobi Jones and so many others I can't even give 'em all shout outs."

Other celebrity participants include NBA star Jalen Rose, Denver Broncos' Brandon Marshall and "Boondocks" creator Aaron McGruder. The hip-hoppers include Birdman, Malice and Pusha T, Big Pooh and Layzie Bone.

Dynamic Duo

ThinkLA has named Mike Sheldon and Eric Hirshberg of ad agency Deutsch L.A. as its Leaders of the Year.

"Part of ThinkLA's mission is to be a leader in bringing new business to the region, and in 2006 no one exemplified that better than Mike and Eric," said Paul Andrews, chairman for the awards and senior account executive at Microsoft Advertising Sales.

Formed in July 2006, ThinkLA brings together members from the Los Angeles Advertising Agencies Association, Los Angeles Ad Club and the Magazine Representatives Association. The non-profit organization promotes Los Angeles as a world center of creative thinking in marketing and media.

Sheldon and Hirshberg joined Deutsch L.A. in 1997. They have turned a 10-person office into the third-largest agency on the West Coast, with more than 250 employees and $1 billion in annual billings.

As agency president, Sheldon has brought in new business from clients General Motors Corp., DirecTV Group Inc., Cinnabon Inc.'s T.G.I. Friday's, and Helio LLC. Hirshberg is the chief creative officer, working on campaigns for Mitsubishi Motors and the California Milk Advisory Board.

Deutsch is a $2.8-billion agency headquartered in New York, led by Chairman Donny Deutsch, who also hosts the CNBC show "The Big Idea."

The L.A. Advertising Agencies Association previously bestowed the Leader of the Year award. Past winners include Jo Muse of Muse Cordero Chen & Partners; Lee Clow, Chief Creative Officer at TBWA\ Worldwide; and Scott Gilbert, chief executive at Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles.

LATV Expanding

LATV, the bilingual music and entertainment format that originated on local KJLA-TV (Channels 33 and 57), has signed a deal to go on the air in four other cities. Post-Newsweek Stations, the TV subsidiary of the Washington Post Co., will air LATV in Houston, Miami, Orlando and San Antonio.

The ad-supported channel will reach the same audience targeted by KJLA, namely the 16- to 34-year-old bilingual Hispanic. The LATV Network will launch in the next few weeks and reach about 8 million cable and broadcast homes in four of the top 10 U.S. Hispanic markets.

"Major advertisers have supported LATV because our unique product delivers the audience they are seeking young and assimilated," said Danny Crowe, LATV president. "This affiliation anchors us in some of the nation's most vibrant bilingual communities, giving us broader distribution and partners in these key markets."

For Post-Newsweek, the deal will attract second- and third-generation Hispanics as well as the general youth demographic, given the popularity of Latino music and pop culture, according to President Alan Frank.

LATV's programming consists mostly of talk and variety performance shows taped in front of a live studio audience.

News & Notes

Variety reporter Gabriel Snyder is moving to the L.A. bureau of W magazine as senior writer. The Southern California Broadcasters Association won the Outstanding Local Outreach award from the American Women in Radio & Television organization. The award recognized the association's Equal Employment Opportunity partnership program for diversity in broadcasting. The Southern California Chapter of AWRT also won four awards at the national convention in Washington, D.C.

Staff reporter Joel Russell can be reached at , or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 237.

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