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EMusic, Sprite reward teens for obeying the thirst

The online music retailer is participating in a Sprite marketing campaign that will offer teens electronic cash on bottle caps that can be used to purchase MP3 downloads and other online goods and services.

EMusic said Monday that it is participating in a Sprite marketing campaign that will offer teens electronic cash on bottle caps that can be used to purchase MP3 downloads and other online goods and services.

Sprite is planning to distribute more than 1 billion caps worth from 20 cents to $1 each in the promotion, which will take place through next year in partnership with electronic payment company RocketCash. Sprite drinkers can collect RocketCash by logging onto the Sprite.com site and entering codes found under the bottle caps. Participants will also receive 25 percent discounts for MP3 songs and albums on EMusic.

The announcement comes as e-tailers are scrambling to capitalize on the largely untapped teen market--and as many teen-targeted Web sites are joining the dot-com carnage. Kibu.com, backed by Netscape co-founder Jim Clark, closed in September, following teen site Snowball.com's layoffs of 100 employees from its 350-person staff.

The online teen shakeout is a result of the Web's "early growing pains," which have raised questions about "how to advertise on the Web, how to market on the Web, how to do commerce on the Web," said Van Baker, an analyst at Gartner. "There's going to be some interim causalities, but this kind of partnership makes a whole lot of sense in the long term."

Baker said that the teenage group and preteens are the biggest music buying segments of the population. They're also prime targets for a payment means that doesn't require the parent giving out a credit card number.

"By virtue of the fact that this audience spends more money on recorded music than the rest of the population, it's a smart combination," Baker said.

Mountain View, Calif.-based RocketCash provides teens an alternative to buying merchandise online without a credit card by funding their accounts with personal checks, money orders, credit card deposits, RocketCash gift certificates or special online reward program incentives, such as the Sprite campaign.

"MP3 music is among the hottest items in teen lifestyle today," EMusic chief executive Gene Hoffman said in a statement. "The promotion is a great opportunity...to give young consumers access to quality digital music."

In June, Free Internet service provider NetZero acquired teen payment site RocketCash in an effort to broaden its e-commerce strategy.