ESPN Ads March To Different Beat

The rivalry among football talk shows is heated. As a cable network competing with broadcast giants, ESPN this month is touting the 18-year-old Sunday NFL Countdown in a new way: with a parade.

In ESPN’s largest-ever one-day shoot for a campaign, the network and Wieden + Kennedy in New York used ESPN parent Walt Disney’s Orlando, Fla., theme park as a backdrop for the eight new spots. “We felt the old campaign hadn’t been opened up to what’s going on in the world of football,” said Kevin Proudfoot, Wieden associate creative director. “We wanted to involve great players, famous coaches and fans.”

Previous Countdown work showed on-air talent talking about the game. The new ads center on a parade that features floats, hundreds of extras, and football stars such as Barry Sanders, Daunte Culpepper and Don Shula. Also in the work are ESPN’s on-air talent and the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.

And it all had to be done in one day. “You’re not getting a billion takes out of these guys,” said Lee Ann Daly, svp of marketing at ESPN, which gained 18 percent in household ratings last year, to a 1.9. (In contrast, Fox’s NFL Sunday had a 3.5 rating in 2002, and CBS’ NFL Today had a 2.4.)

The spots will run on- and off- channel throughout the NFL season. Print, radio and online ads are also in the mix.

Spending on the campaign is estimated at $2-5 million.