Upfronts 2011: ESPN Flexes Its Marketing MuscleNew shows, new ads available for sports sponsors 5/17/2011 02:50:00 PM Eastern
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With live sports gaining ratings and growing ad revenues,
ESPN used its upfront presentation Tuesday to reinforce its position, introduce
new shows, show off new technology and remind sponsors how it helps drive
Ed Erhardt, president of customer marketing and sales at
ESPN, said he expected a strong upfront thanks to an unrivaled slate of
sports that create engagement with fans on multiple screens, particularly
On mobile, ESPN said it would begin selling spots on its
WatchESPN app for smart phones and tablets beginning during the college
football season. Sean Bratches, executive VP for sales and marketing, said that
2.2 million people are already using an ESPN app. "That's scale. That's
engagement," he said.
The presentation included testimonials from marketers
Gillette, Taco Bell, Phillips Van Heusen and Edible Arrangements on how
working with ESPN juiced sales, drove traffic and crashed servers.
"If you have a male target, it's almost impossible not to be
on ESPN," said Tom Winner, media director, Wieden + Kennedy, whose clients
During the presentation, Saturday
Night Live's Seth Meyers, who hosts the ESPYs in his spare time, noted that
he was surprised that ESPN even needed to have an upfront. But Page Thompson, CEO
of Omnicom Media Group North America, said the event, complete with Lakers
cheerleaders, college mascots, and a gaggle of the networks on air talent "reinforces
the strength we know ESPN has, it's entertaining and it gets you excited about
ESPN made some announcements during its upfront:
- It said it was emphasizing
new programming on ESPN2 with two new afternoon studio shows: Dan Le
Batard is Highly Questionable, based in Miami, and Numbers Don't Lie,
which should appeal to fantasy sports fans.
- ESPN announced that during
coverage of the final 10 races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, the action
will not be interrupted by commercials. Instead the network will deploy
its "NASCAR NonStop" format that will feature a split screen showing racing
action, a leader board and a prominent ad. "You can't miss the ad and you
won't miss a moment of action," said John Skipper, executive VP of
content, who dubbed it "sportus non-interruptus." Fox has also begun
showing non-stop action on its NASCAR broadcasts and Turner Sports has
experimented with a similar approach.
- Leading up to the women's
World Cup in soccer, the network will present HERoics documentaries. The
series of six short films on women involved in the sport begins June 25 on
ESPN2 and will also appear on espnW, the sports website for women.
- The ESPN X Games will be
expanded with four events outside the U.S. joining two in America,
starting in 2013. Potential cities will bid to host the new events,
joining Aspen, Los Angeles and Tignes, France.
- ESPN Deportes plans to air
its first original scripted series, El Diez, a 10-epsisode drama about a
professional soccer player in Mexico City.
With the NFL in flux because of the lockout, ESPN emphasized
its coverage of the college game, or what it called "labor strife free
football." It highlighted early-season matchups on Fridays and Saturdays, some
in primetime, featuring top ranked and popular teams including its Sept. 3
kickoff pitting LSA versus Oregon. The season concludes with the Bowl
Championship Series and the BCS Championship Game, all of which are televised