Michael Rooney, exec VP-multimedia sales for ESPN, admits that advertisers sometimes wonder whether their spots on ESPN "SportsCenter" will measure up to the show's own clever promos.But it is just that irreverent tone of the show—along with up-to-the minute sports news, game highlights and analysis—that attracts advertisers and as many as 88 million viewers a month to the program.
"Perhaps they do worry about [the ads] but they want to get as close to that brand as they can," Rooney said. "We understand men better than anybody. This is the social currency for men."
In business for more than 27 years, the show telecast its 30,000th live episode on Feb. 11. It continues to be considered a home run for b2b advertisers that want to reach their customers using nontraditional business media.
This year, "SportsCenter" launched its 11th international version, serving Australia and New Zealand. It is seeking to broaden its national reach as well by extending the brand to the Internet.
In February, it launched "SportsCenter Minute"—a boiled-down version of the previous night's game highlights and sports news—on the ESPN home page. "People love it. It's a great extension of a brand, to be able to extend it to the next generation," Rooney said.
"SportsCenter" also is experimenting with its commercial format. Twice last year and once so far this year, "SportsCenter" had a single sponsor for an entire telecast. First it was Nike, then Xbox. In February, Sprint Nextel, which had not previously bought any time on "SportsCenter," took a calculated gamble by sponsoring an entire 11 p.m. telecast.
In its research, Sprint had found a strong link between its small-business customers and Nascar. The buy, which totaled more than eight minutes of time, kicked off a weekend of commercials that ran during the Fox broadcast of the Daytona 500.
"What was neat about it is instead of just a traditional commercial program, you basically got airtime," said Janice Barbosa, Sprint marketing director-business media. "ESPN was very accommodating. It allows advertisers to get involved in an opportunity to be very creative and stand out."
The single-program sponsorships will continue, with the next one likely being an automaker. Rooney noted that it's important that a single-program sponsor's message fit in well with the major topics that will be covered during a broadcast.
2007 MEDIA POWER 50
|No. 1 The Wall Street Journal||No. 2 Google||No. 3 Forbes.com|
|No. 4 The New York Times||No. 5. CNET Networks||No. 6. Meet the Press|
|No. 7 USA Today||No. 8 BusinessWeek||No. 9 ESPN 'SportsCenter'|
|No. 10 Yahoo!|
|Top Newspapers||Top Business Magazines||Top IT Magazines|
|Top Trades||Top Web Sites||Top Broadcast|