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Ed ErhardtPresident, Global Customer Marketing and SalesESPN
Ed Erhardt is president for ESPN’s global customer marketing and sales. He spoke to eMarketer about how the cable TV sports network is adapting its advertising opportunities to better match sports fans’ multiscreen viewing habits and guiding marketers toward efforts that take advantage of sports’ “in the moment” nature.
eMarketer: EPSN is known as the costliest national cable network. What is your edge in digital?
Ed Erhardt: It all starts with the brand, regardless of what version of ESPN you’re talking about. Whether it’s a television network or what we do digitally or in mobile or in the magazine or in audio or on the ground or around the world, the brand stands for authority. It stands for personality. Those two things are why people are willing to invest at a premium level with ESPN.
eMarketer: What is attractive about ESPN’s brand, authority and personality?
Erhardt: Increasingly, in today’s world, brand as navigator and brand as curator matters. People say they use us to curate what’s important to them. Who’s the next player? Who played the best game?
Personality provides engagement. Our personality sprung from the great advertising that we do. That defined the way that the brand was perceived.
Then there is the talent. If you think about the various versions of ESPN talent, these people have great personalities that sport fans relate to and care about and want to meet. Advertisers recognize the power of that. It’s something that’s allowed us to have a different kind of a conversation with advertisers and agencies about why they should do business with ESPN.
eMarketer: ESPN is known not just for your cable channels but also your strength across channels. What are the best practices you can share about marketing across channels?
Erhardt: The beauty of sports is that it’s live. Live is bigger than just the games. Live is almost every experience you have with ESPN. When you turn on your phone to see what a score is, that’s a live experience because you don’t know the score. When you are sitting at your desk and you punch up ESPN.com, that’s a live experience. It may not be a live game, but it’s a live experience.
The power of live is that sports fans want to be able to be in the moment. So, if you’re marketing in that environment, your marketing should reflect that “in the moment” nature.
eMarketer: How do you help advertisers think “in the moment”?
Erhardt: We do a lot of work with them to help them understand how their advertising works within sports. We know, for example, that contextual advertising, at least in ESPN’s environments, is more engaging, has more brand recall and better ROI. It’s contextual, because it has a sports theme or a sports feel about it.
We have also found that, if you’re going to play in the cross-media environment, you have to have a lot of different creative. It could be the same theme, but if sports fans—particularly sports fans that are in the moment—see an ad two or three times, they are done with it. When you haven’t seen an ad, regardless of what medium it’s in, you take more time with it.
We encourage advertisers to have seven or eight different pieces of mobile creative. You should have 15 or 20 different digital pieces. When you’re creating content for video commercials, don’t shoot the 30s—think in terms of 10s, 15s, 30s, in long form, and see what you can do with that.
We’ll test it for them. We have the Disney Media Ad Lab where we biometrically test roughly 1,000 consumers a week on how they react to advertising within a media context for every screen. So we can really say to advertisers, I guess that ad wasn’t really that effective, or whichever the case may be.
eMarketer: What innovations might we expect in the next year from ESPN?
Erhardt: Personalization is a big part of our strategy going forward, and we’re going to drive and push very hard cross-media measurement. It’s crucial for the business.
We know it’s going to be expensive, because it always is. But, if you think about all the other work you’re doing right now to fill the gaps because there isn’t any cross-media measurement, you probably would at least be even in the amount of time you’d save.
A longer version of this interview is available to eMarketer Total Access clients only. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a Total Access client, click here.
Check out today’s other articles, “Brand Marketers Home In on Online Target Audiences” and “Smartphone Ownership Jumps in Japan.”
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