In the midst of the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship, and with the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup just around the corner, espnW continues to shore up its legacy as a staple voice for the company. The brand made headlines (and a national radio show) during the NFL domestic abuse aftermath and has since generated new audiences and outlets for its lineup of talent. Meanwhile, espnW.com is knee deep in the Women’s Tournament, offering live coverage of each round of games, contributions from ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo, coverage of ESPN’s 3 to See and Need to Know initiatives, stats, analysis and stories on other players to watch and more.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with espnW Editor-in-Chief Alison Overholt about her first year at the job, how the brand is making the most of its opportunities and what’s ahead.
Overholt on year one: We’ve spent the last year really digging in and trying to take the foundation of what espnW is really doing, covering women’s sports, female athletes and trying to elevate the level of quality of all the storytelling that we are doing while building on that foundation. This year has been all about expanding into new spaces and growing as well as adding voices who have a new and unique way of piecing together stories about sports and society. In addition, we are trying to bring new storylines into our space. For example, Jane McManus owned the story the perspective about domestic violence and where it intersects with sports in our culture. She changed that conversation and is now really finding her voice in spotlighting the role women have in shaping policy in sports and the NFL.
On growth: One of the core principles that I brought with me was to create a continuity of storytelling across all of our platforms. When somebody comes to espnW on social media, they shouldn’t feel like they are interacting with a different kind of brand than when they go to espnW.com. If they see one of our talent on television, they should have gotten to know them based off their writing on our site. We should be finding a way to connect these things. As a result, it led to a lot of the growth that we’ve seen. As we’ve unified the voice, the message and where people can find our talent, it has created a consistent experience for fans who are coming to us, which has resulted in fans coming back more often, as well as the addition of new ones.
On synergy at ESPN: We’ve built up credibility within our own company. It’s leading to growth and opportunities, for example we led the conversation around the NFL domestic violence, and that gave us the opportunity to do a radio special. The radio special goes really well and now we are partnering with our friends over in radio and now they gave us a shot at a national radio show. After a successful three month run, you now see our talent invited to guest host other high-profile opportunities. Our talent has run with it and you are now seeing them on other shows.
On women’s issues in sports: From where I am sitting, it is a really interesting time in terms of a shift in culture. My background before I got involved in sports was that I was a technology reporter and it is always fascinating to me the parallels between the tech sector and the sports sector. There’s not a lot of conversation about the similarities but if you look at the conversations about where the women are in Silicon Valley, there is a lot of crossover compared to the sports industry. Frankly, if you take ESPN out of the conversation, because ESPN makes a point of ensuring that we have a tremendous number of women involved across the entire company, the representation is appalling. I think it is really interesting because socially we are approaching an amazing moment because women are standing up and saying this is something they care deeply about and they want their voice to be heard and respected.
On the Women’s World Cup: One of the high points for espnW was the last World Cup four years ago when the site was just launching. So we are expecting there to be as much excitement this time around as well. We will have reporters at every single match, we will have Julie Foudy on the ground reporting for us and for SportsCenter. We have a full coverage plan in place at espnW.com, which actually began at 100 days out. So we now have a dedicated landing page, we will be doing a focused campaign of 24 teams in 24 days, introducing each team to fans. We are going inside training, we have a couple of really big features planned around some of the top stars and we have a series of short films we will be rolling out this summer.