Site Surrounds and Conquers
ESPN remains the go-to source for sports on the Web, distinguishing itself with quality content and seamless integration of multimedia, along with relevant tie-ins to advertisers.
ESPN.com’s Motion video feature plays highlight clips in a window on the site’s home page interspersed with short, unobtrusive ad spots from brands such as KFC, Hitachi, and Visa. Sports highlights originate from ESPN SportsCenter TV broadcasts and are frequently updated. The site’s broadband channel, ESPN 360, carries full game broadcasts. But due to service fees, many ISPs don’t allow access to ESPN 360.
The “Voice of the Fan,” sponsored by Wendy’s, allows consumers to create avatars and record commentary that their virtual characters deliver on cue. The feature is powered by Oddcast, which specializes in user-created avatars. Miller Brewing’s “Man Law” TV commercials provide an intuitive marketing tie-in to ESPN.com’s daily Sports Nation polls. After voting on the poll question, users are directed to a branded page for Miller’s “Men of the Square Table Debates,” where they can sound off on hot sports topics.
“Thematically ESPN does a really good job,” says Adam Kasper, senior vice president and director of digital media for Havas’ Media Contacts. “They’re able to match a campaign line or a tagline with a feature on their site.” CBS SportsLine and its extended family (pgaTour.com, ncaaSports.com, and cstv.com) has built a reputation for live streaming. SportsLine’s presentation of the 2006 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament set online viewership records. “SportsLine is leading the pack in live broadcasts on the Web,” Kasper notes. “I think the NCAA Tournament is going to be even bigger this year.”
Major League Baseball’s mlb.com offers abundant video clips and podcasts and a subscription package that streams TV broadcasts of every game. Among league-run sites, the National Football League’s NFL.com may be one to watch this year. The NFL is set to resume production of its site, ending a six-year relationship with SportLine. With content from the NFL Network at its disposal, nfl.com could be poised for a major upgrade.
Meanwhile, Yahoo Sports provides clean, quick access to basic sports information. It also offers a weekly video Webcast and a subscription package of college sports radio broadcasts. Despite the fact that it’s the online arm of a weekly magazine, Sports Illustrated’s SI.com reacts nimbly to breaking news and delivers an array of content. Users can submit nominees for SI’s “Faces In The Crowd,” which spotlights amateur athletes. SI also teams with Rise magazine, which covers high school athletics, and Takkle.com, a high-school sports social networking site.