Upfronts / Newfronts

Why ESPN's 'Always On' Pitch Might Sound Familiar to Upfront Buyers

MTV Used the Same Approach Last Week

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ESPN has been internally planning a special marketing message for its May 13 upfront presentation: "Always On." One problem? MTV made the same pitch during its upfront presentation April 24.

Disney's ESPN said it only became aware that Viacom's MTV beat it to the "Always On" punch after reading about MTV's recent upfront presentation on AdAge.com.

Despite appealing to the same audience of weary media buyers only three weeks later, ESPN will forge ahead. So look to see "Always On" emblazoned across banners and signs during ESPN's upfront party in New York this year.

"Always On" will remain "the theme of our show and it will be reflected in how we go to market during the upfront season and beyond," said ESPN representative Amy Phillips. (Invites featuring the pitch went out weeks ago.)

"Given our scale and the thousands of live hours ESPN presents across all of our screens in an average year -- more than 35,000 -- 'Always On' is an apt and accurate description of our marketplace advantage, as opposed to being one that is aspirational," said Ms. Phillips.

Or put another way, while other networks might be striving to get to an "always on" status with the help of social media and real-time marketing, ESPN says it's already there. ESPN and ESPN2 are now in 96 million U.S. homes. With seven domestic TV networks, ESPN Radio, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, and more, fans are constantly consuming the brand. Even if they're not aware of it.

And with Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network trying for ESPN's ad dollars, the network wants to make very clear just how ubiquitous it is in the lives of sports fans that advertisers want.

According to Ms. Phillips, more than 80% of ESPN ad buys of $2 million or now more include more than one platform. And more than half of advertisers spending more than $5 million with ESPN spread those dollars across TV, digital and print, she said.

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