ESPN: ESPN3 Campaign

It’s not too often that you get the opportunity to market an entirely new sports channel. With the creation of ESPN3, ESPN wanted to deliver the most comprehensive streaming (online) sports experience possible. And our assignment was simple: drive traffic for the upcoming college football season.

The Briefing: I wanted to keep it simple. There is absolutely no need to overcomplicate a brief for such a wide-open creative opportunity. The words on the page simply read…

Convince: College sports fans

That: ESPN3 is more than just another place to watch live sports

Because: ESPN3 separates true fans from the bandwagon.

But I didn’t want to simply hand off the brief and wait for the creative teams to return with their ideas. I felt this was an opportunity to expand the role of planning in the building, and with the encouragement of our new CCO I provided a briefing filled with stimulis relevant to the challenge. I dove deep into fandom and what it meant to people’s lives. I provided technological opportunities to deliver a better, broader experience for fans online. And I encouraged creative exploration by providing a deep analysis of our key target audience: college kids tuning in from their dorm rooms.

The Idea: A creative team discovered a curiosity in the papers ripe for capturing attention. It seems a lonely island in the Chesapeake Bay had just received High Speed Internet for the first time. The team’s idea was to make this island – Tangier – the biggest sports town in America…per capita.

It was a great idea on paper. The scripts wrote themselves, and I collaborated with the team to ensure their idea went beyond traditional media. The scale of the project – turning 507 isolated souls into brand stewards for the rest of the country – needed to expand beyond the boundaries of the :30. And that’s exactly what we sought out to do.

We took over one of the largest white boards in the agency and eventually mapped out the larger opportunity. It was the first time this particular creative team had ever been pushed to think of their idea across “paid, earned and own” media. But I soon discovered it didn’t take much for them to realize their work was going to be better off for it:

There are too many assets to list. Some of my favorites were more subversive than others. For instance, we held a “real” press conference on the island where the head of the Virginia Tourism department presented the mayor a Tangier with a plaque announcing they are the biggest sports town in America…per capita.

The news of this spread across the Mid-Atlantic and beyond. People turning to the web to find out more about Tangier island discovered a revised Wikipedia page outlining the entire affair. The official Tangier tourism website was taken over by ESPN3 content, and additional content captured during the shoot was seeded and shared online.

The entire campaign was a hit both with the client and fans. Organic conversations online (captured through monitoring software) revealed a peak in social conversations about ESPN3 that far exceeded expectations. And correlations between marketing flights and traffic to the site showed momentum through the college football season.

My involvement throughout this process solidified my role in the building as an “experience planner.” I’ve had the good fortune of playing this role on most assignments since.

See a snapshot of our content (and get a taste of the wild accent of Tangier natives) by clicking here.

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