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ESPN Fields In-House Creative Unit

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Teeing off what promises to be a fast-moving upfront marketplace, ESPN has formed an in-house creative unit that will develop custom branded spots for clients.

Dubbed “CreativeWorks,” the new initiative will generate sports-themed spots for linear TV, digital, mobile and print. First to the plate is T-Mobile, which on June 8 will bow a pair of CreativeWorks-produced spots in support of its “$5 Add a Line” campaign. Featuring Hall of Famers Bill Walton and Rick Barry, the first of the two spots will debut during Game 3 of the NBA Finals, on ABC, while the second ad tips off in Game 4 on June 10.

The CreativeWorks spots were produced in conjunction with T-Mobile agency partners Publicis and Optimedia.

The formation of the new creative unit systematizes a process that began several years ago. “We’ve been providing creative services for a while, but lately demand has increased,” said Sean Hanrahan, ESPN’s senior vp of marketing solutions. “In addition, recent research confirmed that what we are producing really resonates with our fans, so we decided it was time to structure our creative resources in a bigger, more formalized way.”

The research to which Hanrahan referred was conducted by Disney Ad Lab. Examining the effectiveness of a previous ESPN campaign co-developed with Toshiba, the study found that custom creative helped boost recall by 121 percent.

Currently in active discussions with clients, the CreativeWorks team will announce future collaborations at a later date.

The CreativeWorks effort is the latest bid by a network to help steer client messaging. In April, USA Network began pitching media agencies on Character Brandworks, an in-house creative agency designed to help clients identify the “face” of their brands.

“CreativeWorks is rooted in our special relationship with fans,” said Ed Erhardt, president, ESPN customer marketing and sales. “No one knows our fans better than we do, and we can leverage that knowledge to help our clients deliver their brand message to our audience in the most effective way.”

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