ESPN calls itself "the worldwide leader in sports." And it got there partly thanks to quite a bit of free advertising—happily provided by the very athletes it covers.
Basketball, hockey, baseball, soccer, football. Whatever the game, fans count on ESPN to showcase it and analyze it. And ESPN enjoys a pleasantly symbiotic relationship with star athletes, who often freely serve as unofficial endorsers—online and on TV.
The prime example, of course, is the iconic "This Is SportsCenter" ad campaign, set in the surreal world of the ESPN offices, where pro athletes toil as co-workers rather than superhuman sports stars. They generally aren't paid for these appearances (though ESPN often donates money to a charity of their choosing), and one even told ESPN that being in the campaign was on his bucket list.
ESPN's skillful marketing over 35 years is what really built the brand. But it doesn't hurt that, more than most, it doesn't have to fight for celebrity endorsements. Indeed, star athletes love ESPN, and vouch for it. More than likely, if you're a sports fan, you do too.
Great piece on the Bad Boys on ESPN. Check it out. Here's an early pict of me and the Captain. pic.twitter.com/vehMhxUraR
— Shane Battier (@ShaneBattier) April 20, 2014
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) August 18, 2014
Great 30 for 30 on the "Bad Boys"!!! S/O that whole squad mostly because the brotherhood they had for one another no matter what!!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 18, 2014
— Troy Merritt (@TROYMERRITT_PGA) June 18, 2014
Stuart Scott is a Beast. Been an inspiration to a lot of people. Was the reason I started watching Sportscenter as kid. Hasn't missed a beat
— Ian Desmond (@IanDesmond20) July 17, 2014
— 10 (@SimplyAJ10) January 23, 2014
Sports fans are incredibly passionate, and this helps ESPN's social presence greatly. It's not surprising that ESPN had the year's top branded post on Facebook by summer's end. Every post on all of the brand's social channels quickly nabs thousands of likes.
• ESPN has two owners: ABC, which owns 80 percent, and Hearst Corporation, which owns 20 percent.
• Launched in September 1979, ESPN now has eight cable networks, a variety of digital properties including ESPN.com and Grantland.com, audio and international programming, a magazine and several annual events like the ESPYs and the X Games.
• In August, it launched the SEC Network, which showcases the Southeastern Conference schools.
• The company is based in Bristol, Conn., and has roughly 7,000 employees worldwide.
—Brand of the Day is a daily feature on Adweek.com. To submit a brand for consideration, contact Kristina.Monllos@adweek.com.