Sunday, March 24th, 2013



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Cynopsis Media Presents: Leagues & Organizations

by Joe Favorito

Once an add-on to broadcast and cable upfronts (ESPN was the first all-sports presentation to crash the upfront week wall, in 2005), sports is making the games that people play and watch even more vital to programmers and to the brands and buyers who are looking to engage.
“Sport was the first reality show,” NBA Commissioner David Stern has often said, and that reality and its stars have melded more into the minds and pocketbooks of the ad world than ever before. Even off the field of play, the persona of sports has become a must-have for the successful broadcast. Need a news show to raise ratings? Talk about Tiger and Lindsay. Looking for a successful reality series? Fold a current or former NFL star into “Dancing With The Stars.” How about a show about celebrity diving? Let’s drop Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into the pool, or current Detroit Lions star Ndomikin Suh. Whereas years ago only a handful of athletes could boost the juices of a brand in broadcast, today that push comes from current and former stars, as well as from good-looking and well-spoken athletes of all shapes, sizes and ethnic backgrounds. For brands, the athlete of today, even sometimes with feet of clay that can make him or her seem a bit more mortal, has become a must-have for broadcast, and that’s reflected in the place sports now holds in the traditional broadcast upfront.
However, even without the crossover into traditional broadcast TV, sports as a stand-alone offering has never been bigger during the upfront season. Whereas years ago, the sports division would be confined to only a few minutes of the overall show, now sport for broadcast…the stars, the partners, the leagues, the games, the digital, the multiple networks…are interweaved throughout the presentation. Advertisers crave the action, and the networks want to bring that vibe to them as often as they can during their vital few hours of storytelling. Nor do dollars lie when it comes to the sports spend. According to the IEG Sponsorship report, 2012 brought in a 5.5% increase in sponsorship spending by North American companies. More than $18 billion was spent in 2012 on all categories of sponsorship and IEG predicts that the sports sector especially will see significant growth – 6%, or $13.79 billion to be exact.
One of the networks on the cable side which had embraced sports, especially the power of Mixed Martial Arts, is Spike TV. First as a partner with the UFC, and now with their own Bellator brand, Spike delivered and sold the stars of MMA from Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz to an advertising audience which was at first very skeptical, but then became not just accepting, but devoted to the product. Budweiser and Miller Coors, Joseph A. Bank Clothiers, Harley Davidson and the U.S. Navy among others became converts, and MMA is now an expected staple in a Viacom upfront, especially when the Spike brand is in the house.
“We’re thrilled with the positive response from mainstream advertisers to Bellator MMA on Spike,” said Kevin Kaye, President of Spike TV. “They recognize the incredible athleticism of our athletes and the ability for our weekly live events to deliver the elusive young male viewers.”



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That young male viewer and the sports he follows is what has changed the face of the content featured in the upfront in recent years. Content is no longer restricted to weekends and prime time – it’s multiple networks and multiple feeds 24/7, with the latest offering being Fox Sports 1, holding its own launch for the advertising and media community last month. The network will go live in August, looking to challenge ESPN’s spot as the biggest dog at the daily sports broadcasting bowl. In order to do so, network execs needed to use the upfront to tell not the sports buyer, but the entertainment marketer as well what will set this Newscorp offering apart from the one in Bristol, Connecticut .
“The sports upfront sounds the bell and alerts our clients that we are officially open for business,” added Neil Mulcahy, EVP Sales, FOX Sports. “There’s nothing better than face-to-face meetings, and we’ve been traveling across the country making presentations about FS1 since October. Our Upfront was the culmination of that effort, signifying that we’ve moved from explaining what FS1 will be to actually selling it along with our extensive broadcast offerings, which includes big events like the MLB All-Star Game, World Series, Daytona 500 and Super Bowl XLVIII. It’s a very exciting time to show the world what we’ll be doing.” While too soon to see which advertisers will migrate to FS1, it’s safe to assume, especially with the recently-signed Big East sports deal as a tentpole, that brands now aggressively entering the college space, from Buffalo Wild Wings to Unilever, will not be far behind.
Of course, that value and the inclusion in the upfront, be it for NBC and its sneak peak of an Olympics, or for FOX or CBS, is also not lost on their league partners, either. As the source of so much content, the leagues are especially keen on being able to help tell the story, and not just to an audience that’s looking to consume in one way, or even in one language. Major League Soccer, for example, has used their spot in the upfronts of all their broadcast partners to tell a story that’s multi-lingual and multi-national, as well as one that appeals to the mainstream grassroots consumer who has three young ones kicking a ball around the local rec league. That ability to fill many spots for a broadcaster has helped amplify the growth of soccer to an advertising audience more than any ratings shift in MLS games in recent years.
“We’re fortunate that we have a great relationship with our five national broadcasters – ESPN, NBC, Univision in the United States and TSN and RDS in Canada,” said Dan Courtemanche, EVP, MLS. “Networks understand the power of The Beautiful Game, how it is the global language. It lets us know that our partnership is top of mind for them, as it is for us.” The multi-network affiliations have given MLS a sponsorship bounce that their broadcast partners have also enjoyed. Volkswagen, for example, not a mainstream sports spender year-round, has seen growth in both awareness and sales through its work with MLS and its broadcasters, activating through the digital space and at a host of sites around the country. Two other traditional sports broadcast partners, Allstate and Panasonic, have also seen double digit rises in brand awareness through their work with MLS, according to a recent Turnkey Sports/Sports Business Journal survey.


Cynopsis Sports Media Awards: LESS THAN 3 WEEKS AWAY!
April 17 | 8:00-10:00am | The Yale Club

Aside from a terrific group of finalists, the following Sports Luminaries will also be honored at this previously sold out event:
Scott Blackmun | US Olympic Committee
Steve Bornstein
| NFL Network + NFL
John Kosner
| ESPN Digital + Print Media
Scott McCune | The Coca-Cola Company
Preview the list of finalists and register before seats sell out!

The power of sports has always been top of mind for ESPN, of course. “The Worldwide Leader,” part of the Disney/ABC Family, has been the tastemaker for sport on a wide scale for brands for more than 30 years. Today, faced with competition from Fox, the added platforms created by CBS and NBC Sports, Turner’s always innovative inroads with the NBA, MLB and the NCAA, and even the ever-growing insertion into the market now by Al-Jazeera owned BeInSport, to say nothing of the eyeballs and dollars that could go to NFL Network, MLB Network, NBA TV, The Tennis Channel, and any of the growing list of college-specific offerings, makes for interesting times for the network that created the all-sports experience for the consumer. The upfront for ESPN gives executives and talent the window to not just cut through the clutter for advertisers, but to serve as a loud reminder of the breadth, quality and quantity that the network can deliver for its partners.
“Today, the upfronts are all about context, which is more important than ever for those in the media business,” said Ed Erhardt, President, ESPN Global Customer Marketing and Sales For ESPN. “Getting in front of our top clients to remind them of the unique value proposition of live sports across screens is hugely valuable. And for the clients, buyers, planners and executives, upfront week is not only an efficient use of their time, but it provides context in one place – especially as we look ahead to the coming year. Of course, the shows can be a lot of fun, too. We do our best to entertain and surprise the audience, but that’s all in the context of delivering a broader message about why our environment makes sense for their brand.” With more than decades of history not just over multiple television platforms but with a full-blown radio network, a successful print magazine, a vast mobile component, the deep pockets of the Disney empire and content that runs the gamut from soccer and the NFL to bowling and poker, ESPN offers depth and an array of touch points that can involve brands 24/7 and around the world, in whatever medium the product or consumer chooses to engage in.
That narrative, with its heroes and villains, winners and losers, is now available across multiple networks and in a choice of languages. It can make for confusing and difficult choices not just for a consumer, but for a brand as well. The upfront has to serve as a way to hone the message and explain “why us” more now than ever before. “As someone who has represented properties and worked with the biggest brands in the world, especially in motor sports, to see the growth in positioning of sports in an upfront has been amazing,” said Chris Lencheski, now the CEO of Comcast-owned Front Row marketing but a longtime sports marketer with Olympic, NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula 1 properties. “Sport was sometimes an afterthought when presenting at the network upfronts, but now the stars of the games are essential pieces of a marketing plan that goes well beyond those who watch games on TV…those athletes are reality series stars, social media kings and tastemakers. Plus, there’s a proliferation of sports-specific networks that brands and buyers must now address, and the upfront is the place where they can get a feel for all that sport as an industry has to offer before they invest their capital and the reputations of the brands they represent.”
Those sports-specific networks have also helped change the face of upfront time. While few of either the regional networks or those dedicated to one sport have sought out the elaborate trappings of a traditional upfront yet, they still need to educate brands and buyers why MLB Network or NBA TV or the NHL Network or the NFL Network will be a differentiator, as opposed to investing in a wide swath of content from a broadcast or all-sports property. The regional networks, which cater to large-volume hyper-local programming, may fall into part of a larger presentation: Comcast Regional Networks being mentioned in a larger Comcast broadcast upfront is one example. But they, too, need to explain what sets them apart as innovators to get their piece of the billions spent on broadcast sport engagement each year. The result is part road show, part discussion of assets and all about seizing opportunities.
“NFL Media’s strategy when it comes to upfronts is to take a very personal approach and meet with all the accounts and agencies we do business with,” said David Patillo, Vice President of NFL Media Sales. “The one-on-one interaction not only allows us to highlight all our offerings on NFL Network and the digital side of our business, but more importantly get direct feedback from our clients, buyers, and media planners as to what they’re looking for and how we can help them build their business. It’s been a highly effective method for the sales season and also for long-term relationship building.” What do the partners want when choosing NFL-specific content? In-depth analysis, insider information and activation programs that will align them firmly with the nation’s most popular sports brand. They can get an affiliation with football with any network partner, but a direct tie to the NFL shield and its growing core audience 24/7 is what sets the network apart in its pitches.
So what’s the long-term prognosis for the role of sports in the upfront? “We’re fortunate to be in the business of live sports and to be aligned with revered league partners, teams and athletes with loyal fan bases,” ESPN’s Earhardt says. “Sports has the added advantage that it cannot be copied. Someone might be able to invent the next breakout singing reality show, but it’s impossible to duplicate a big match-up.”
With an Olympics and a World Cup on the horizon, the ever-growing preponderance of fresh content from high school to extreme sports, and the seemingly insatiable need for the public to consume live sports content on an ever-growing series of regional and national sports-centric channels, the future appears to be bright.

Later —
Joe Favorito
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports

Roberta Caploe: Editorial Director
Denise O’Connor: Group Publisher, Cynopsis Media
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group

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