On the to-do list for 21st Century Fox's latest big bet, Fox
Sports 1? Find itself an advertising agency -- or roster of
agencies -- to deliver the kind of game-changing creative that
Wieden & Kennedy has long
delivered to ESPN.
Launching Aug. 17 in 90 million U.S. homes, the new 24-7 sports
channel will go head-to-head with Disney's ESPN for TV
viewers, advertisers and sponsors.
Fox Sports Media Group marketing chief Robert Gottlieb, left, with St. John's coach Steve Lavin, right, during a 2013 commercial shoot.
Fox Sports Media Group works with San Francisco-based Pereira & O'Dell on a project
basis and is happy with the work, said Robert Gottlieb, head of
marketing for Fox Sports Media Group. But Fox Sports 1 doesn't have
an agency-of-record and Mr. Gottlieb said once the network is up
and running this fall he'll likely start searching for a partner --
or partners -- that can come up with creative as effective as
Wieden's long-running "This is SportsCenter" campaign for ESPN.
Fox Sports 1 hasn't decided if it will hold a formal agency
review or approach it on a more ad-hoc basis, said Mr. Gottlieb,
who reports to Fox Sports Media Group co-presidents Randy Freer and
Eric Shanks. Pereira & O'Dell would be invited to participate
in the review, he added.
The pitch could revolve around Fox's telecast of Super Bowl
XLVIII from MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2, 2014. Fox will televise the
first cold-weather Super Bowl to be held in an open-air stadium.
Mr. Gottlieb said he plans to use Super Bowl week in New York as a
"secondary launch window" to blanket TV viewers, advertisers and
media buyers with news about Fox Sports 1 and its programs.
"We're going to try to take advantage of all the attention
that's already there to refocus on Fox Sports 1 and do another
push," said Mr. Gottlieb. "There's definitely big creative that
we'll be unveiling ... so in the next couple of months, we probably
want to start engaging on that stuff." He said Pereira & O'Dell
would "definitely be part of that conversation as well."
Fox Sports 1 rolled out an ambitious, 90-second-long commercial
introducing itself to American sports fans during Fox's telecast of
the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Tuesday night. The
celebrity-filled spot featured an array of star athletes and sports
personalities, including Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco of the
Baltimore Ravens, reigning American League MVP Miguel Cabrera of
the Detroit Tigers, UFC champ Georges St. Pierre, St. John's
basketball coach Steve Lavin, former heavyweight boxing champ Mike
Tyson and UFC President Dana White. Fox Sports 1 worked early on
with an agency to create the spot, but they parted ways before the
spot was completed due to "pretty vast" creative differences, said
Mr. Gottlieb. He declined to name the agency. "They wanted to do a
comedy spot with athletes singing," he said. "They were very wedded
to the idea of doing a funny spot."
Once the current branding phase is over, Mr. Gottlieb said Fox
Sports 1 will roll out new commercials touting specific new shows
such as "Fox Sports Live," its nightly 11 p.m. news-and-highlights
show that will go head-to-head with "SportsCenter," and "Fox
Football Daily," a daily NFL show co-hosted by "Fox NFL Sunday"
insider Jay Glazer.
Challenging ESPN won't be easy from a programming or advertising
standpoint. Now in 100 million homes, ESPN has fended off sports
cable challengers before. But Fox Sports 1 has been luring on-air
stars from competitors, such as Erin Andrews from ESPN and Gus
Johnson from CBS.
Additionally, ESPN outspends Fox Sports from an ad standpoint.
Fox Sports spent a total of $11.9 million on measured media in
2012, according to Ad Age DataCenter; ESPN spent $63.6 million
during that same period.
Still, once upon a time nobody in TV could imagine Fox News
knocking CNN off its cable-news ratings throne, noted brand
consultant Ernest Lupinacci. Fox now regularly out rates CNN.
Mr. Lupinacci, a former creative director who worked on ESPN and
Nike campaigns at Wieden
& Kennedy, isn't counting Fox out, especially if Fox Sports
Live can make inroads against ESPN's bread-and-butter
"I wouldn't bet against Fox: these guys come into a category to
win it," said Mr. Lupinacci, conjuring up the famous philosophy of
famed football coach Vince Lombardi: "Winning isn't everything;
it's the only thing."
"Happy Days Are Here Again" -- the spot Fox Sports 1
unveiled during the MLB All-Star Game this week:
~ ~ ~ CORRECTION: An earlier
version of this story said News Corp. owned
Fox Sports 1. Fox Sports 1 is owned by 21st Century