Deja Vu: FS1 Recycles ESPN's 'A Champion Will Rise' Tagline

Challenger Network Says Duplication Was a Coincidence

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Fox Sports 1 and ESPN have been rivals since Fox launched the 24/7 sports cable channel as a challenger to ESPN's sports cable dominance. So it was odd when Fox Sports 1 used the same advertising tagline -- "A Champion Will Rise" -- to promote its Big East Tournament coverage last week.

Why? Because ESPN previously used "A Champion Will Rise" to tout its coverage of the NBA Playoffs and Finals over the past two seasons.

Fox Sports 1 used the "A Champion Will Rise" tag in TV and print ads driving tune-in of the Big East tournament held at New York's Madison Square Garden from March 12-15. The tag wasn't spoken during the voiceover in the TV spots. But the words were flashed across the screen for emphasis. Fox Sports 1 created the ads in-house.

ESPN previously took a similar creative approach, with the slogan "A Champion Will Rise" being spelled out across unfurling yellow banners over the last two years. The self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports cast NBA legends such as Bill Russell and Larry Bird in the Finals spots, while using stars such as Kevin Durant and Chris Paul for Playoff ads. ESPN's agency is Wieden & Kennedy, New York.

Robert Gottlieb, head of marketing for Fox Sports 1, said it was a coincidence. Mr. Gottlieb said he wasn't aware his marketing team used the same tagline as ESPN until Advertising Age asked about it.

"I'm not familiar offhand with how that line was used in the past," he said.

On the other hand, it's not like Fox Sports 1 proclaimed "Just Do It." Mr. Gottlieb noted "A Champion Will Rise" is a "familiar" bit of phrasing. If Fox Sports 1 tried to use "A Tradition Unlike Any Other," he'd expect flak from CBS, which has used the slogan for decades to promote The Masters golf tournament.

Said Mr. Gottlieb: "That's so branded for CBS and The Masters, that that would be a problem. If we were using something that was so specific, and branded, by a certain event or place. But I don't think anyone kind of recognized a line about 'champions will rise' as matching that kind of specificity that you see in something like that."

Meanwhile, with New York sports radio personality Mike Francesa taking his simulcast show national on Fox Sports 1, Mr. Gottlieb has rolled out a new TV spot for "The Mike Francesa Show" which starts Monday.

The spot features sound bites of Mr. Francesa sounding off on favorite topics such as bad referees. "You could have called that from the last row with eight beers in you," he declares.

ESPN declined to comment on the dueling "Champion" taglines. The NBA referred calls to ESPN.

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