Tag Archives: ESPN

Would You Hire Han Solo?

Han

As we head into a new year amidst Star Wars insanity (among other, less fun, insanity) it’s a time to ponder future plans both personally and professionally. One of those might be the future makeup of your team at work – which drives the question of whether you’d hire Han Solo for your team. He has no Ivy League pedigree, he often shoots from the hip, he procrastinates and then often gets the job done better than others (always with a sheepish grin), he allows his street smarts to drive decisions rather than a background in business theory, and is often “creative” in his solutions.  Does every team need someone like this?

If you look at ESPN’s evaluation of the Star Wars characters and what roles they would play in the the starting lineups in the major sports, Han is one of three constants across all teams the others are Chewbacca and Luke. But, Han’s position is consistently more of a leadership role on the field. So, leave out your favoritism that may have formed over the years… Would you hire Han Solo? I would.

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Digital Upgrade At Your Own Risk – Brand Be Damned!

It seems that many apps and digital offerings have been updated since the beginning of the year – and an interesting trend has taken shape. What once was so wonderfully free – with few ad breaks and just slightly more privacy – has turned the corner and has become, well… less. Additionally, a huge sector of mobile users that excitedly upgraded to Android 4.3 before the end of the year have only further lamented the multitude of issues they’ve encountered since (with battery life reducing drastically being a consistent theme).  All of this leads to the question – To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade?  Unfortunately, in many instances, the consumer never gets the chance to question and the brand is damned to stumble.

Screenshot_2014-01-28-16-57-38

The gray area is meant to have content served within.

 

In the case of ESPN, they chose to re-brand their scores and news app to be more aligned with their colossal SportsCenter brand – changing it from Scorecenter to SportsCenter. That change makes sense – as does the twitter feed from their on-air personalities.  What’s more challenging is that the app is much more volatile (see above) with nothing showing much of the time.  Even more annoying is the fact that users now have to log in or register in order to automatically keep track of their favorite teams. For most, this might not be an issue, but for those trying to hold on to the last piece of privacy, that component might be a deal breaker. The fact that there’s now far more advertising with page overlays and in-feed ads only adds salt to the wound.

Diminished revenue generation is definitely an issue for all content providers, but it will be interesting to see how conversion plays out as more and more previously free apps move into the paid model. Since the new year, at least 4 of my news apps have moved behind a paywall – with only headlines available for free – rendering it useless. Hopefully, we’ll soon see the ramifications – one way or the other – on this change soon. We’ll definitely see if people have an appetite for paying in multiple places for content.

Even in the free realm, questionable choices have been made:

  • ABC force upgraded the app leaving users with a lot less content choices and a lot more ill will. Checking the ratings on the App Store and Google Play shows a very large distaste for something that was the standard bearer for innovative video presentation. With the previous usage and inability to skip through commercials, it made sense.  Who knows what will happen now.
  • Yahoo! changed their mobile product to supposedly simplify their content delivery. The only problem is that the UI leads one to believe that if they click on search, they’ll be able to search within the category (i.e.,Entertainment, Sports, Life), only to find that it takes them out of the app environment and to their general search interface.
  • Sporting News is struggling to keep from crashing as they deal with issues stemming from iOS 7 in their newest update. The fix might come with the supposed release of iOS 7.1 in March, but that brings us to the next issue.

With all of the concerns users have with upgrading already – and the worries of what they will have to learn or not have access to – is the update to iOS 7.1 or Android’s 4.4 KitKat one that people will venture into widely or quickly?  Microsoft is having it’s own issues getting consumers to upgrade Windows OS – especially as people realized how much was still left to be done with each release. Is the same lack of concern for the user experience – and the interest of meeting ambiguous deadlines worthwhile for consumers who are quick to pull the trigger and move elsewhere? A concern is that, among developers, there is an excuse permeating that everyone expects issues. How sad is that?

The debate can continue as to whether it’s human nature to always want the new bright and shiny object. But, it is pretty clear cut that when forced to the new, something good should be delivered.  If companies/brands keep forcing the issue, they might be damned to losing the loyalty of those who just want to keep interacting the way they always have.

Automakers Raise The Platform Of Inspiration

Ahhh, Automakers.  I see you did get that email.  You know? The one where it is agreed that the focus in this first quarter of the year should be on inspiration in the commercials. Honda set things off right with the Civic commercial showcasing new innovations and emoting the feeling that things can always be better. Then, during the Super Bowl, we were treated to extremely long spots focusing more on the members of the military and cowboys than on the Jeep and Dodge trucks they were marketing. The fact that many count the Dodge commercial as their favorite says something – but what that is, we don’t yet know. It seems we’ve reached a trend where inspiration becomes the platform for awareness and connection with cars – and association is almost as strong as what’s under the hood.

HondaBetter

For those who remember Paul Harvey and loved listening to his radio broadcasts, the subject of his talk could have been about toothpicks and he would have made it inspirational. Play him talking about God making a farmer over beautiful images, and there might not have been a better connecting inspirational moment for its intended audience. The fact that it was effectively a two-minute slide show with voice over takes it to another level with its simplicity amid the pandemonium of the big bowl game.

Going directly for the heart-strings, Jeep clocked in at 120 seconds with Oprah guiding us through our wait for our armed forces to return home. And, there were a couple of compulsory shots of the actual car they are selling. It seemed the seed was planted by Chrysler’s spot in last year’s super bowl stating that Detroit (and America) was back.

Other than the Millions of views those two longform spots have received on YouTube in the two days since the Super Bowl, it remains to be seen what will be done to build on them.  But the onslaught of inspiration has been taken to the next level by Honda and its Civic model.

Tying into every big social media platform, Honda is leveraging its inspiration into a content play surrounding innovation.  The social media program is called the #HondaInnovator Series and it sets off to provide more information about the innovators in its spot.  With a slew of programming across Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube to distribute content and enable interaction, they’re hoping to also generate buzz around the 2013 Honda Civic.

Though it’s not clear how many people will show up for the hour-long Tweet chats with the innovators featured in the spots, Honda will end up with a bunch of content that indirectly touches on their product. To a certain extent, the sky is the limit on where they could take this new-found content stream. Though I don’t believe its the same, it feels sort of like the moment that ESPN decided to create the X Games – but that had sports at is core. Maybe a better example was when MTV decided to air a reality TV show about kids living together – perhaps they all liked music.

Regardless, the opening up of a single commercial concept to create more content and enable more touch points with consumers is a strong one.  Honda’s tie to innovation is as strong – if not stronger – to its product than Jeep’s tie to our military and veterans or Dodge to God, cowboys and Paul Harvey. Let’s now take a moment to reflect on the proliferation of content converting to market share…

Hot Wheels Makes Children Of All Ages Go Loopy With Excitement

While driving through downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, my eyes lit up by something I had always hoped for as a child – a full-sized version of the Hot Wheels loop-de-loop toys.  Seeing it as an adult shines a different light on it, as I have no thoughts that I could ever stomach driving a care through the loops – like I believed I could have done in my minds-eye as a child. Other than the excitement of seeing the full-sized toy in real life, the realization of what Mattel was doing with their Hot Wheels brand made me even more impressed. Mattel is seizing on the opportunity presented by ESPN’s X-Games to introduce, re-introduce and just plain make their products more relevant in an entertaining and engaging way.

Hot Wheels Double Loop Dare being built-in a downtown parking lot. Courtesy of SpeedCafe.

Taking place tomorrow morning during the X-Games coverage, ESPN will air the feat between two daredevils.  The drivers will face 7-Gs of force as they do the loop and will only hope that they do not crash into each other.

I had read somewhere that this opportunity was a creative one that they arrived at when they realized there was no big blockbuster to sponsor.  They decided to create their own sort.  At a supposed cost of $1 million dollars to pull off, the content and buzz generated by this should more than pay off.

The fact that Mattel has already been engaged in full-scale treatments of their beloved line of toy cars provides even more reason to do such a thing. You can check out more at their site. They already have a good distribution point for video content and this should provide a wealth of content beyond just the initial viewers on ESPN.

Mattel has recently had a knack for doing strong creative partnerships, such as their program with Gallery 1988 in Hollywood – allowing artists to do renditions of the hot wheels they love. All of these help to make Hot Wheels extend beyond the pre-teen years of boys.

With less than 24 hours to go, it will be great to see whether this stunt flies high or takes a crash.  My bet would be on the former – regardless of how the stunt drivers’ Hot Wheels end up.

Courtesy of Chris Tedesco/ESPN

[UPDATE] The stunt was successful – with the only thing shocking me was that they only reached a top speed of 52 MPH. I would have thought you would have needed to go faster than that to go upside down.  Does that mean I can go straight from the end of a CA highway on-ramp into a loop?  Check out the video on ESPN.

ESPN Can Second-Screen My Life!

As part of an article about the possibility for networks co-opting event rights – like NBC’s Olympic coverage this Summer – without paying a penny, ESPN’s EVP of multimedia sales told Adweek, “We want to see ESPN as a second screen for all sports. We know we have a lot of companion [mobile] usage even when it’s not our event. We want to take co-viewing to the next level.” ESPN may be one of the brands that are best positioned to move beyond just the games they air when it comes to second-screen apps. I would even go one step further… They should expand their definition of second-screen to include all live sporting events – whether you are watching the show on their networks, other networks and, most importantly, if you are physically at the games. This would align with my feeling that the best branded solution for second-screen apps is to focus on affinity groups rather than broad networks or shows.  By doing this, second-screen apps can best complement life and not just viewing habits.

I know this is a little “ideal” or “out there”, but imagine if ESPN was to focus on building that environment that extends the experience of “being there” to all viewers and building bonds in the real world between people who are all at the same event. What if there were special check-ins for people who are physically at the games – or if it automatically tracked whether users were at a venue or not and framed their comments in such a way that they could be found more easily. They can post bits about what they’re seeing in the venue and allow those at home to feel even more connected to the game. This can be done in association with ESPN’s already popular GameCast feature – building out a whole new feel for the game.

Courtesy of Adweek

Though the Adweek article was focused on television and rights, it did get me thinking about the possibilities for second-screen apps that deep dive into themes that matter to affinity groups. There are those brands that could work best to serve those affinity groups in all parts of life – as a second-screen. ESPN is obvious for sports, but could Bravo be the second-screen app for all things Arts – with check-ins and instant reviews from cultural facilities?  Could Food Network be the same for both restaurants and grocery stores? How about E! or Style for nightlife.  In all of these instances, there could be a great opportunity to enable connections in real-life that also feed into our digital lives.

To a certain degree, Facebook is a second-screen App to our lives.  But I think it is too broad. Narrowing down our second-screen-life Apps to the affinity groups (Sports, Culture, Food, Partying, Outdoors, Crafts, etc.) and anchoring them to the large niche cable networks could be just the ticket. If a brand is already developing a companion app, and the cost of including some location-based functionality is incremental, doesn’t it make sense to reach for greater inclusion, interaction and engagement?

Maybe I’m thinking too much in the clouds, but I really don’t think this is too far off.  Even from a sports perspective, there was a time when the new sports venues were installing systems to provide real-time stats at your seat.  Obviously, that went by the wayside when mobile Apps came on the market that could do the same thing.  There is obviously a demand for it in that engagement model.

If the right branding partners are leveraged, it could mean quicker and simpler access by people no matter where they are and what they are watching. Rather than a whole bunch of Apps that are specific to certain locations, requiring people to download a bunch of occasionally used Apps, those brands with the penetration should look to really run the gamut and make their Apps whole for the affinity groups that would most use them.

At that point, we’ll be talking about Second-Screens for our lives – whatever that life may be…

MTV Shows a Sexy Model for Web Events

It’s rare to see a media outlet that does not either create exclusive shorts or post highlights for web and mobile in order to support on-air properties.  It’s even rarer to see a media outlet putting all their eggs in the online basket in the hopes of generating more buzz for the channel or brand.  MTV just pulled off that rarer feat last week with their MTV O Music Awards online-only program celebrating music and the use of digital to drive fan engagement.  With the infrastructure many organizations have to activate and record events like this, what MTV has done is a model for others moving into the future.

While it is still too early to measure analytics comparable to on-air, the opportunities gained from programming like this are strong enough to carry through to that future time when the numbers could actually hold their own against broadcast. There were a few interesting elements of the OMAs.  The first was the voting process – which was done through Twitter and Facebook.  In a report at CNN Money, they cite eleven million people voting through Twitter.

There was another point that the CNN article brought up that was key.  Having events like this online allows for the inclusion of advertisers who either can’t afford spots on-air or don’t want to be that broad to begin with. The point was made that the real key for advertisers is whether viewers were buzzing about certain parts of the show or actual advertisements.  For that element, it seems that just airing the content in and of itself might not be enough.  There should be communication and connectivity features surrounding the video player.  By doing this, its much easier to track what’s going on in real-time and then port those elements out via Twitter or Facebook regardless of the form the communications were made – generating even more interest for viewing repeats of the show or highlights.

As we’ve seen with basic cable and even network news before, they have done a good job of capturing a bunch of content and either repurposing elements (like ESPN and X-Games) or drawing elements out across multiple programs to drive viewership of other shows (like Presidential or celebrity interviews.)  By doing these lower-cost events, there could be opportunities for cost-effective content creation that could actually make it on-air within the right packaging.

These are just a few of the benefits of this type of programming. Certainly, MTV’s execution might have left something to be desired – I wish they had shown the examples of the nominees’ work (especially for the Digital Genius award) rather than just show their names – but they have time to iron their programming out.  Online and Mobile is still considered a medium where people don’t pay as much attention, so time can be taken to refine mechanics. 

With the resources broadcast and cable companies have and the growing trend for viewers to watch content via outlets other than televisions, this is the future and it would be a huge miss for the established outlets to not take advantage of what web-specific events have to offer in broadening their reach, providing additional advertising inventory and generating content that can be repurposed cost-effectively.