Starting with the NBA finals, ESPN is teaming with Twitter to create new ad programs around major sporting events. These new programs will be promoted online and on-air across Twitter, ESPN and ABC and ESPN's digital properties.
Regarding the tie-up, Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter’s vice president of global brand strategy, said: “It’s the first time advertisers can engage [ESPN’s audience] across screens and where the conversation is happening on Twitter.”
As for the timing of the deal, Lunenfeld pointed to the rise of connected devices, and consumers’ increasing taste for digital multitasking. Indeed, as Nielsen recently found, about 45% of Americans who own tablets and smartphones watch television while watching something else at the same time. Thirty-six percent of smartphone owners engage in this "two-screen" experience.
The announcement coincided with ESPN’s network upfront presentation, which took place in New York on Tuesday.
Each ad program will be co-created by ESPN and Twitter, beginning with GameFace -- the first effort, which will be focused on the NBA Finals.
GameFace will be integrated throughout the live ABC broadcasts and ESPN’s "NBA Tonight" programming with a dedicated Twitter hashtag #GameFace.
Fans will be encouraged to tweet photographs of their “game face” throughout the finals. At the conclusion of each game, "NBA Tonight" analysts will highlight the competition and reveal the best photographs on-air. The best photos will also be featured in a photo gallery on ESPN.com/NBA.
On Twitter, #GameFace will be supported through Twitter’s Promoted Products suite -- including a Promoted Trend during the finals -- and the experience will be plugged on the @NBAonESPN Twitter handle.
At the conclusion of the NBA finals, ESPN basketball analyst Jalen Rose is expected to tweet his
top five favorite #GameFace entries before revealing the final winner, who will receive a grand tour of the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
Additional sports events that have been identified include the Global X Games, Road to the BCS National Championship, Super Bowl, World Series, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and NASCAR Chase for the Cup.
Future events will offer a similar interactive experience, according to Lunenfeld, with new themes and dedicated hashtags to drive the sports conversation on Twitter.