The goal of this initial campaign is to get fans to tweet photos
of their best "game face" accompanied by the dedicated hashtag. At
the end of each game of the finals, "NBA Tonight" studio analysts
will display some of the top contest photographs on air. Some
photos will also get exposure at ESPN.com/NBA.
Twitter and ESPN will be co-selling the campaign -- which
includes promoted tweets and trends, as well as plugs on ESPN, ABC
and ESPN.com -- as a single package for each potential sponsor.
It's the first time Twitter has collaborated with a TV network to
build custom sponsorship packages around major events.
Twitter and ESPN said it is too early to describe exactly how a
brand will be integrated, as they haven't sold the first deal. At a
minimum, the GameFace sponsor's brand will displayed within the
on-screen promotion of the contest on ABC, most likely within a
lower-third graphic. The sponsor's brand is also expected to be
tied into the Twitter page housing the GameFace photo entries. The
companies declined to discuss pricing.
The second screen has become a fixture in many households, with
41% of U.S. smartphone owners and 45% of tablet owners using their
devices at least daily while watching TV, according to a Nielsen study released in April.
And they are using social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter
to have conversations about major events unfolding on the larger
screen. Twitter, for example, reported that users posted an average
tweets per second during the final three minutes of the Super
Bowl this year.
The notion of incorporating Twitter into TV broadcasts isn't
new. "The X Factor" let viewers vote for contestants through tweets, for example, while FoxNews.com
used Twitter to gauge viewer response during GOP presidential
debates. But Twitter's partnership with ESPN signals its intention
to generate some revenue from a pop-culture phenomenon that it
helped to create.
"Twitter's already the second screen for TV, and we've already
seen it's like an EKG for attention," said Joel Lunenfeld,
VP-global brand strategy at Twitter, who said the microblogging
site and ESPN had a co-selling arrangement during the 2011 Final
Four but that it didn't include TV inventory. "What we're doing now
is helping brands and content partners to explicitly connect that
conversation between the first and second screen."
Mr. Lunenfeld said that TV "tentpole" events like the Emmys and
Grammys could represent opportunities for Twitter to forge similar
partnerships with other media companies.
ESPN collaborated with YouTube on an earlier call for entries
from its viewers. In that program, called "Your Highlight," amateur
athletes were encouraged to upload footage of their athletic feats
for a chance at having a clip featured on "SportsCenter." ESPN is
now looking to capitalize on sports chatter on Twitter by
celebrating fandom and cashing in in the process.
"It's giving fans a reason to become part of the content," said
Eric Johnson, exec VP-multimedia sales at ESPN.
The two companies' sales teams began pitching brands on these
sponsorships in recent weeks, Mr. Johnson said. The partnership is
targeting 10 events over the next year and a half, including the
Super Bowl, the World Series, NCAA Final Four, the BCS National
Championship Game and the X Games. Ideally, one brand will own the
sponsorship of each event, Mr. Johnson said. "We'd like to
customize toward one specific brand as opposed to homogenizing it
for four or five," he said.
ESPN analyst Jalen Rose, who has more than 640,000 Twitter
followers, will tweet his top-five GameFace contest entries at the
end of the NBA Finals. He will then reveal a winner on the air. The
winner will get a tour of ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
ESPN-Twitter programs for future sporting events will not
necessarily include a contest entry but will probably give fans
some incentive to share, Mr. Johnson said.