Thursday
Apr152010

ESPN's World Cup Marketing, Coverage Kicks It Up Several Notches

April 15, 2010: ESPN will take its mantra of being the "worldwide leader in sports" to the world's game, blanketing its coverage of the upcoming FIFA World Cup with what the network is calling "the largest single-event marketing campaign in ESPN history."

"The World Cup will dominate the discussion of sports fans in this country in a way that has not happened before," John Skipper, evp-content for ESPN, said during a preview press event in New York on April 14. "We will pull out all the stops to make sure people pay attention."

ESPN said it would have more than 230 hours of live coverage; air all 64 games in HD among ESPN, ESPN 2 and ABC; televise 25 games in 3D on ESPN 3D, launching June 11; and have more than 300 people on the ground in South Africa, where the World Cup will take place June 11-July 11. To support its massive effort, ESPN will have TV, a print campaign comprised of 33 original works of South African art, Internet, radio, outdoor, mobile, a book, numerous dedicated mini-films and other marketing partnerships across the Disney Co. system. As it did during the 2006 World Cup, the campaign falls under the umbrella theme, "One Game Changes Everything."

ESPN Deportes will have its own marketing campaign, "90 Minutes No Son Suficientes" ("90 Minutes is Not Enough"). International ESPN outlets also will support with local campaigns.

Sea of fans in ESPN World Cup promo spot."[The 'One Game' theme] resonated in Germany during the 2006 World Cup and it certainly will resonate in South Africa," said Seth Ader, ESPN's senior director of sports marketing. As for the enormous marketing push, Ader said, "We tend to promote things heavily."

Ader said that ESPN has targeted two key groups with its World Cup marketing: soccer fans and big event sports fans.

"Soccer fans are the most important audience — they have waited four years for the World Cup," said Ader. "We don't have to sell them on soccer. What we must convey to them is the authenticity of our coverage and the importance of the event to us. They make up the majority of our World Cup audience. We must show them that we understand their passion."

The second audience, said Ader, consists of "tens of millions of sports fans [who] don't want to miss drama that comes at the highest order. They watched The Masters [with the return of Tiger Woods], they watch the World Series, the NBA Finals. We have to engage them around the high stakes of the World Cup."

Scene from ESPN World Cup TV ad, "Robben Island." TV spots for ESPN's World Cup marketing will feature the music of U2. An intro spot showed highlights of the 2006 World Cup played out to "City of Blinding Lights." "Robben Island," which broke earlier this month and was filmed at the prison where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were incarcerated during the country's era of apartheid, is anchored by a mash-up between U2 and the Soweto Gospel Choir singing "Where The Streets Have No Name." The collaboration has also spawned a video, with footage from U2's October 2009 concert at the Rose Bowl, that ESPN said would appear "in every program throughout ESPN's presentation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, including highlights, match and studio coverage."

Among other TV spots, "United" is played out to "Magnificent" and has Bono in voiceover offering, "This is not about politics, religion, borders, global warming, elections, sanctions, the Stock Market, the black market . . . This is about the world coming together every four years." "The Power of Ten" focuses on players who have worn the No. 10 jersey with the U2 song, "Out of Control." "Passion" looks at the spike in the number of berths in Germany nine months after the 2006 World Cup, with the U2 song "Desire."

"This matters to us globally," said Skipper. "We will leave no soccer ball unturned to bring the World Cup to the U.S. in  a meaningful way."

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