ESPN Creates Branded Content for Miller and Sears

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ESPN/Miller The Squeeze
ESPN has unveiled the second film in its "ESPN Shorts" series, which features sponsored short films, serialized in :90 second installments during signature programming like Sportscenter. The first film, The Scout -- created by Atlanta agency BrightHouse and directed by HKM's Michael Karbelnikoff for sponsor Sears -- follows a baseball scout as he tracks a young groundskeeping prodigy. The second, The Squeeze, shows a family of Red Sox fans as they struggle with a dilemma when their Uncle Mack dies during Game 6 of the World Series and is scheduled to be buried during Game 7 with a Boston championship on the line. Sponsored by Miller Brewing, The Squeeze was created by agency Ground Zero and directed by Headquarters director Laurence Thrush.

"There is a lot of heat around branded entertainment, but there aren't a lot of examples where it really does occur during high-quality and high-profile programming rather than on the web," says Ed Erhardt, president of customer marketing and sales at ESPN. "The juice is that they're appearing in high-profile programming."

Erhardt says the shorts are developed by taking the concept to advertisers, then sending the projects out for bids from agencies, who present ideas for the films. "We offer up the opportunity to a variety of shops," he says. "Then we pick the one that is the most compelling and the most on-brand. They must entertain, they must be compelling, and the product or the brand has to help advance the story."

The network is getting a lot of interest from advertisers and agencies alike, according to Erhardt, although ESPN is limiting how many shorts it plans on doing. In addition to The Scout and The Squeeze, there are two more projects currently in the pipeline, both of which are slated to air in the fall.

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