Monthly Archives: August 2013

English Premier League On NBCSN About Content Or More?

NBC Sports Network was looking to make a splash when it launched English Premier League Football (Soccer) this past weekend and it seems like it did the trick.  While much of the build up was focused on whether the $250M per year was a sound investment, the payoff on the investment will rely on much more than the actual ratings of the televised matches. To me, the more interesting question is whether good content will draw viewers as much as engrained history does – will English Premier League draw viewers where Major League Soccer has not?



To get the business side of things out of the way, here’s Cynopsis’ synopsis:

NBC Sports Group’s debut of the Premier League the on Saturday paid dividends for the sport as the league drew record ratings nationally. The triple-header on NBC and NBC Sports Network averaged a 0.5 rating overall, to mark a 67% spike over the equitable three opening Saturday games saw a year ago in 2012 (a 0.3 average). NBC’s telecast of Swansea City/Manchester United delivered a 0.8, the highest overnight rating in US history for a Premier League opening day matchup. On the local front, Washington, D.C. topped all U.S. markets for the game with a 2.2, followed by Tulsa, Austin, Seattle and Buffalo. Online, fans also streamed more than four million minutes of Premier League action via NBC Sports Live Extra.

Certainly, you can get caught up on the growth year-to-year, but the general public know where to find the opening day matchups last year? It was probably the mixture of NBC’s promotion and so many EPL clubs coming to the States to play exhibition matches. But, taking that at face value and the fact that there is more coverage this year than last, is just doubling a small baseline enough to make it a success?

As with other sports like Hockey or even Major League Soccer, there’s something to be said for generating large viewership for a population who may not have grown up with a sport.  We can safely say that the American population grew up with American Football, Baseball and Basketball. But, only a limited part of the country grew up with Hockey and barely any grew up with home-grown soccer.

While transplants to the US have deep affinities for their home teams – whether it be South American, Mexican or European leagues – will those not from the UK buy in to EPL? Will it be enough to generate 1/20th of the audience for the NFL to make it worthwhile? (The 1/20th figure is based on $5B per year the networks are paying the NFL from 2014-2022.) It may very well be enough.

Usually, with sports that have not been a part of someone’s life, people need to have a personal experience with it – perhaps attending a game or knowing fanatics of teams or the sport in general. Personally, I enjoy soccer, but it wasn’t until I was able to attend an EPL match that I was able to get excited enough about it. I certainly would not have tuned in to watch the Chelsea/Hull City opening weekend match while flying from LA to New York.

So, will NBC have to do something to generate even more excitement for the game, or are they happy with the numbers they might have and the awareness it might bring for the network?  It could be argued that the coverage leading up to opening was worth far more than $250M in marketing and awareness for the network. (Though it was odd to see an ad for Fox Sports 1 through DirecTV during the match…)

Or, will it be a boisterous cheer that the EPL fans are known for singing at the top of their lungs in stadiums ringing hollow?

American Express Taps Into A Legendary Community?

All brands are looking for ways to tap into large communities.  In some cases, it is simple enough to buy your way in through advertising, sponsorship or promotions. In some, there’s a number of hurdles a company would have to jump through in order to associate themselves with that coveted community.  Imagine working to tap into a highly-coveted group of 30+ million millennials who are part of a passionate community that has defied normal convention by building via social and word of mouth.  It’s no longer hard to imagine as Riot Games is allowing American Express to tap into their League Of Legends community with branded pre-paid Amex cards.



While American Express did create a co-branded card for a program with Zynga in Spring of 2012, many would argue that Zynga’s games were open to such intrusion of branding since corporate logos had been incorporated into gameplay since the beginning.  We don’t even know how successful that program was and how many points were recorded through the branded cards. A relationship with Riot is completely different and exciting.

Riot differs from Zynga in that they have not incorporated logos into their actual gameplay.  There is brand incorporation via sponsorship of their competitive eSports teams – where teams of five get together to compete in round-robin tournaments for major prizes and international coverage. But that’s almost an entirely different experience than the 5 million-plus daily players experience. In effect, Riot is taking a big risk here as such a large corporate partnership could possibly lose favor among the deeply entrenched players – those who are more interested in an unblemished world.

Something that Riot has done extremely well is build on the idea that it is created by gamers for gamers. As such, there is a community pride in the fact that you could play a very long time without spending a dime, so therefore, they are willing to put some money in (a lot of money in) to enhance their experience.  But, that “consumerism” is all in the spirit of gameplay and community.

Will this partnership turn on deaf ears – even with loyalty rewards being offered? Or, will this be a huge play for penetration into the highly-sought millennial market? That is where the excitement comes in.

If American Express is able to penetrate this community, it would be a huge win for them as they attempt to increase brand awareness and loyalty for a finance firm that traditionally plays to much older audiences. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out and whether they tap in or trip out.

Los Angeles Billboard Check

Visitors to Los Angeles are always in awe of the number, scale and permutations of billboards across the city. To those who live here, they can often be lost within the urban sprawl. Because of this, its worth checking out some billboards of interest – and the reasons they are compelling.


The buzz surrounding the final season of the series, BREAKING BAD, is deafening. Even those “in the know” folks in LA are plainly not when it comes to this television show.  Is the lead going to live or die? Is the antagonist’s DEA agent brother going to bring him down, or vice-versa? The anticipation for the final story is of the same level of that other popular show where everyone was rooting for the antagonist, HBO’s THE SOPRANOS.

Which leads to a billboard seen around town for BREAKING BAD.  With the image of the main character, the marketing team was judicious in their copy – keeping it short, sweet and with absolutely no answers! Whether they meant it or not, the words could be conveyed in so many ways – from that of a drug kingpin demanding respect and immortality to the invocation of a song from the 80s version of FAME (I’m going to live forever.) To me, it’s a perfect billboard in imagery, copy and information.

XX Venice

Angelenos are also used to billboards conveying insider information.  For instance, you can easily figure out the paths that studio heads take to their offices as their studios’ billboards, bus sides and others are always on that route. Of interest was this Dos Equis billboard with the quote “He can get from the valley to Venice in 14 minutes.”  Certainly, the quote works for a location-specific audience who constantly trades in how long they can get from one part of town to another. But this one intrigued me for another reason.

Though I’ve never met Jonathan Goldsmith, the actor who portrays The Most Interesting Man In The World in the Dos Equis commercials, I do know that he lived in Marina de Rey and the Venice area when the spots started in 2006.  With that understanding, I wouldn’t be surprised if the marketing team got the idea from a casual discussion with Goldsmith.  I could imagine Goldsmith brashly stating that he could get from the Valley to Venice in 14 minutes – and a billboard quote was born.

Of course, my assumptions about both billboards could be completely wrong – which only proves how much the viewer’s perception plays into these large format advertisements… Stay Marketing, My Friends.