The largest sports network in the world made its upfront presentation to media buyers this month. Days after rumors surfaced that FOX may launch a national cable sports network in the near future, ESPN unveiled a slew of fresh opportunities for the future. New campaigns with Twitter as well as integrations with Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, Netflix and Microsoft will be launched in efforts to further entrench the brand in the minds of sports fans at all points of media consumption. Ed Erhardt, the company’s President of Customer Marketing and Sales, predicted that sports will be the most bought segment at this year’s upfront.
As large networks continue to fight for this very engaged consumer, ESPN embarks on initiatives to harness its enormous reach so that advertisers can gain access to their audience on all screens. “We have massive scale, but that doesn’t mean we don’t target a specific consumer,” said Eric Johnson, ESPN’s Vice President of Multimedia Sales. In perhaps the most interesting iteration of their capabilities at the upfront, ESPN presented a case study involving their work with Gatorade. Partnering across multiple screens with the network, Gatorade aimed at embracing the female athlete and mother. Their main endeavor was support of “Nine for IX,” a short, nine documentary series ESPN created about women in sports in conjunction with the 40-year anniversary of Title IX.
In working with its clients, ESPN capitalizes on capabilities to target niche areas of its audience. Gatorade is able to focus its message out to the rising number of active women who are using its product on a consistent basis and make them feel important, set in the perfect brand/content fit. Media capabilities like these will allow brands to target groups of consumers differently, based on their behaviors and interests, rather than sending one broad and often vague broadcast advertising message. Engaging with your consumer on a micro-level becomes vitally important as competitive brands come into the market landscape. Just ask ESPN, they know a thing or two about that.
Viewers are increasingly turning to online and on-demand for their weekly dose of comedy, drama and reality television. So where does scheduled broadcast television fit into the mix with the increase in non-traditional viewing experiences? The 25-34 demo still receives the majority of their content via traditional TV, however, they no longer differentiate between “on TV” and “online” viewing. Although traditional television remains king (as of today’s numbers) the number of homes in the U.S. with televisions dropped last year for the first time in over 20 years. Computers, tablets and mobile phones have become the primary content source for a younger audience that has never had to pay for traditional television because of digital content partners such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube.
So what’s the best way to reach an audience that is constantly viewing content on a variety of platforms? Instead of developing individual strategic TV, Radio and Digital media plans, we need to create plans categorized by Video and Audio. Reaching a viewer while watching the latest episode of New Girl on Hulu should be no different than reaching them while watching it during scheduled broadcast. Streaming your favorite radio morning show at work should be no different than listening while driving to work. With the increase of technology we are forced to think smarter about how we extend our media presence and reach our target in unique ways.