What If Team CBS Raced On NBC Sports?
If we’ve learned anything about branded TV entertainment, it’s that it can sometimes score in big ways.
I'm not necessarily talking about entertainment shows. Just look at many European sports -- such as soccer, auto racing and cycling. Recently, General Motors spent big money -- some $31 million a year -- to get major jersey signage on one of the most storied soccer teams of the world, Manchester United. GM also caused some controversy, according to reports. In the multiyear deal, GM replaces insurance giant Aon as the team’s major jersey sponsor.
Many say broadcast networks should make like cable networks by allowing cross-channel promotion. Our friend, TV analyst and sometimes MediaPost blogger Steve Sternberg has been on a drumbeat for some time for this to happen.
But perhaps an intermediate step is necessary. Take a look at the big marketing news from this year's Tour de France, where Bradley Wiggins became the first British competitor ever to win the big three-week bike race.
Wiggins was on the very strong Team Sky cycling team -- the same "Sky" as in British Sky Broadcasting, the U.K.-based pay TV network.
But the Tour de France race aired in the U.K. on ITV, the terrestrial-based commercial broadcast network, and on Eurosport, another pay TV service -- not on Sky. So, for the better part of three weeks, ITV and Eurosport cycling announcers were mentioning "Sky" many, many times -- in essence, free, wall-to-wall network promotion by competing networks. This was in addition to the Sky "signage" on team uniforms and elsewhere.
Which brings me to the U.S. For several years now, the Red Bull New York team in the Major League Soccer league has been getting headlines, in keeping with soccer sponsorship traditions from around the globe. More recently, NBA owners approved a deal for teams to sell two-by-two inch sponsorship patches on their jerseys.
What if broadcast networks -- looking to gain extra promotion in the wake of still generally declining ratings -- started doing branded entertainment deals for content appearing on other networks?
No, I'm not expecting NBC-branded soft drink glasses on the desks of judges in Fox, CBS or ABC singing/dancing/performing arts reality shows anytime soon.
But what if a network did a branded entertainment deal with a specific sports team -- or, for that matter, a big naming rights deal? Hey not too long ago the Discovery Channel sponsored a major professional cycling team – at the cost of some $15 million a year – while the team’s races, including the Tour de France, aired on Outdoor Life Network, which begat OLN, Versus and finally NBC Sports Network.
Sound crazy? Right now, sports owners -- and TV networks themselves -- may not agree to this kind of marketing effort, considering the conflicts with existing TV business relationships.
But at some point in the near future, a professional sports team in trouble financially will be in need of a creative solution. Perhaps at the same time a TV network will also be under the financial gun.
In that perfect business scenario, we may one day see a Team Disney, Team Fox, or Team CBS sponsoring cycling, soccer or another sports team that will have announcers on NBC Sports Network or ABC/ESPN uttering the sponsoring network’s name -- over and over again.
Don't worry. Consumers won't blink -- or go for their futuristic virtual remotes.