Blyn: ESPN Brand Health #MRA_AC #MRX


ESPN America

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Session summary of the Marketing Research Association 2011 annual conference. These are my interpretations of the session. They were written during the session and posted immediately afterwards. Any inaccuracies and silliness are my own.


General Session: Rapid Heartbeat: The Creative, Inspiring and Never-Ending ESPN Brand Health Narrative
Barry Blyn, ESPN

  • 50 researchers at espn; focused on what and why of radio, international, ad sales; ESPN is the conduit, not the story, use maverick, innovative ideas
  • Philosophy: fanatical about listening to audience; find something that needs to be fixed, they like rust removal – tweak it a little better
  • Let’s present results from any instrument that answers the problem whether focus groups or surveys, use the right media, quant or qual, know what instrument to play
  • A typo in your survey suggests other things are wrong
  • There are 222 million sports fans in the US, 9 in 10 americans, that’s a luxury that you cannot target, must target avid sports fan. 8/9/10 on a scale is the avid sports fan. ESPN reaches a lot of fans, probably 212 million. 52 million checks sports news everyday – these are the target group.
  • ESPN Miranda rights – highest rated year last year, #1 favorite netwrk among adult men, 107 million people touch ESPN in a week, average person spent 6 hours per week with ESPN, ESPN.com had 40 million unique visitors in April.
  • Dave Chappel says “stay in your lane”, do what you know best; people wants sports news and information, stay where you know what to do
  • 3/5 consumers say ESPN is at its peak, 1/5 see it on the way up about 18%, 23% on its way down; Focus is the 23% of rust removal
  • Assignment #1: Relentlessly monitor the brand health. Type your brand name and “sucks” into google.
  • (Green on green slides, sigh)
  • Do research in ball barks, athlete homes, ball field to appeal to your fans; maybe not the best methodologically but the experience is unbeatable
  • Brand eulogy project: (Second time heard this today) What would happen if this was gone? What eulogy would you deliver if ESPN was gone. Lots of duds but 50 good ones is enough.  This data frames the brand tracker.
  • ESPN wants to be seen as the “fan”- paint your face and carry the beer not the “agent” – boring, doesn’t much care about the game; That is why anchors are in the game, stop pushing your brand with logos everywhere
  • Let people touch the brand – world cup food truck, helmet cam, NBA RV tour, MNF storefront displays, US open viewing trucks
  • Poke fun at yourself – “For ten days we weren’t watching ourselves either” ad during the Michael Phelps sweep of gold medals
  • Launch a brand campaign – contest to demonstrate love of sports, bacon is big in this🙂
  • Deprivation project: Paid people $400 to NOT watch TV. What is emotional connection? Where are blindspots, where did people go instead? Create a 5-tool player, good in every aspect. 52% of ESPN use at least two platforms, the rest only 1 platform. People don’t want to use every platform your provide. Recruited 60 people. Did it for 2 weeks during football season. Gave them every tool to respond – video, photo, audio journals, focus groups, surveys.
  • Other ESPN platforms should reflect back on the overall bland even though they stand for their own unique thing. Every apple product shines light back on the Apple brand.
  • Script the plays: They did conflict groups, groups that didn’t like the brand as well as groups that like it. End it off with something they like, agree on. They learned: leverage ESPN technology, improve the comfort and chemistry of the talent, don’t put celebrities in the booth put skill in the booth
  • There are actually people named ESPN in the US and they found those people
  • Surveys don’t really work for them
  • Wants to have jury consultant review the body language of the sportscasters, lots of people think all sportscasters are the same but they aren’t
  • Trying to take humble news, less logo waving, more fans
  • 50% of viewers are female, 30% of users are women, you can’t just paint is pink, they launched wESPN. Tough Putt :)  Serve women without being condescending
  • Figure skating has a bigger fanbase than hockey
  • If you don’t know what to talk about, talk about football, it’s the biggest one
  • Men watch women’s softball, another popular sport🙂
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