ESPN Creates Ad Agency, Greater Collaboration With Marketers

ESPN CreativeWorks

For years, ESPN has produced the well-received "This is SportsCenter" campaign -- albeit with the help of Wieden + Kennedy -- and now it's forming a sort of in-house agency: ESPN CreativeWorks.

ESPN said Tuesday it will assist clients with developing creative using a tone that dovetails with ESPN's accent. Among its goals: crafting co-branded vignettes with marketers, as well as spawning promotions that stretch across multiple screens.

CreativeWorks falls under ESPN's sales organization, although it may call on outside agencies ESPN works with for production help, including Triple Double, Maggie Vision Productions and Phoenix Productions. No word on any Wieden involvement.

ESPN has worked with clients before on such co-development. Other cable networks provide a similar service; branded vignettes hope to capture more viewer attention during breaks than traditional spots.



The CreativeWorks announcement came as ESPN held its annual upfront event, in which the network touted its coming coverage of the World Cup starting June 11. Twenty-five games will be carried on its new ESPN 3D channel, with network sponsor Sony set to air a spot in 3D. ESPN sales chief Ed Erhardt said discussions about 3D spots continue with several other companies; film studios would be a natural fit.

The sports net will not produce the 3D games, but rely on a generic feed provided by soccer's international governing body.

Separately, ESPN has said that use of its mobile offerings is up 30% year-over-year. Eric Johnson, an executive vice president in multimedia sales, said advertising on handheld devices wants immediate results. "The ad in the pocket to get cash out of the pocket," he said.

ESPN has been interested in launching a non-"SportsCenter" original show in late night -- something it tried on ESPN2 with "Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith," which ended in 2007. Next spring, the company will give it a go on its ESPNU outlet.

"U:Nite" is scheduled to debut on the channel, which has increased distribution to 70 million homes as ESPN has cut deals asking for increased reach for "U" in exchange for marginalizing ESPN Classic. Targeting young males, "U:Nite" has sports interspersed with segments on gaming and music. There will be some remote coverage from college campuses.

ESPN will migrate shows to its Spanish-language ESPN Deportes by debuting a version of its year-old "SportsNation" ("Nación ESPN") early next year.

In social media, the company said it has a deal with Playdom to develop ESPN-branded sports games that can be housed on Facebook and MySpace. Also, ESPN's ScoreCenter, which provides score updates to iPhone users, will be available as an Android app this month.

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