Dunkin’ Donuts Enters Multiseason Pact With ESPN’s 'Monday Night Countdown' | Adweek
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Dunkin’ Donuts Brews Up Sponsorship With ESPN

Chain lands exclusivity in Monday Night Countdown’s 'Field Pass'

Photo Illustration: Dan Barrett, sources Noel Vasquez and Thearon W. Henderson via Getty Images

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Dunkin’ Donuts is brewing up a multiseason pact with ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown, signing a deal that makes it the exclusive sponsor of the show’s “Field Pass” segments.

Fresh off its July IPO, Dunkin’ is expanding on a robust regional marketing strategy, placing itself within one of ESPN’s most-watched programs. Last season’s kickoff edition of Monday Night Countdown drew 2.05 million viewers on Sept. 13.

Viewership of the pre-game show tends to increase in direct proportion to the strength of the weekly matchup. For example, week five of MNC averaged 5.34 million viewers. Per Nielsen, the ensuing Packers-Bears showdown drew 17.5 million viewers.

All told, ESPN last year boasted an average delivery of 3.54 million viewers per episode of MNC. The Monday Night Football broadcasts that followed the pregame show posted record deliveries, averaging 14.7 million total viewers in 2010. 

The Field Pass segments bring viewers onto the turf, giving them an inside look at how individual players prepare for the game. The Dunkin’ Donuts logo will be featured prominently throughout the segments, which are shot from multiple locations on and around the field.

The deal marks the first time ESPN has built a sponsorship around Field Pass. Both partners said they wouldn’t rule out on-air integration, but for the time being you won’t see Chris Berman slurping from a “regulah.” (New England parlance for a coffee with cream and two sugars. Dunkin’ is based in Boston.)

“We’d certainly love to have our product appear on-air, but any time you get the talent involved there’s another level of difficulty,” said Nicholas Dunham, director of media for Dunkin’ Brands. “But this is a long-term deal, and in the coming years, there will be a lot of things we’ll be doing with Monday Night Countdown.”

Dunham said the Field Pass deal is a particularly good fit from a brand perspective. “It’s all about the preparation that goes into the big event,” Dunham said. “It ties in with how people use Dunkin’ to get ready for the game, the morning, you name it . . . We’ve done national stuff before within sports, but nothing to this degree.”

The chain also sponsors ESPN’s weekday studio show, NFL Live.

“They were looking for something unique and wanted the reach of the NFL,” said Ed Erhardt, ESPN’s president of marketing and sales. “They’ve always had that association with big-time sports, and this really takes it to the next level.

Hill, Holliday is Dunkin’ Donuts’ agency of record.

Dunkin’ Brands in 2010 invested an estimated $115 million in measured media. The company is also active in other areas; in June, it agreed to a 10-year extension of its naming rights to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, RI. The company pays $425,000 per year to secure its alliance with the arena, which is home to the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League) and the Providence College Friars.

Long associated with East Coast sports franchises, Dunkin’ Donuts has regional sponsorships in place with the New England Patriots, Boston Celtics, New York Giants, and New York Jets. It is also the official coffee of the Dallas Cowboys and Cowboys Stadium.