ESPN Launches College Football Playoff Hype in Preseason

W+K creates spot to build excitement for on-the-field championship

ESPN is hard at work, creating buzz for the inaugural year of the College Football Playoff (CFP).  

Created by longtime partner Wieden+Kennedy, the "Who’s In" campaign looks to reach fans of one of the 128 schools hoping to receive one of the 4 spots in the college football playoff. While Duke, Tulane and Georgia State merit less attention than Ohio State and Louisiana State, the message is that everyone who follows college football should be paying attention. The network needs them to.

ESPN is paying $470 million dollars to the NCAA each year through 2025 for the exclusive television, radio, streaming and international rights to the year-end bowl games that will decide the top college football team. Recouping that $7 billion investment requires attracting advertisers who are willing to pay well to reach large audiences of college graduates and young adults.

Citing estimates that sports media consultant Neal Pilson shared with CBS Sports, The Motley Fool reported in June that “in terms of impact … advertising rates and TV viewership will be about half as large as a typical Super Bowl—a potential audience of 50 million and 30-second ad rates of $2 million. By comparison, the [January] 2014 BCS National Championship captured just 26 million viewers, and most 30-second commercials cost near $1 million."

The Motley Fool also noted that ESPN has to bring new game-level sponsors onboard for the short and long terms because the respective underwriters of the Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl, Tostitos and Discover, have canceled their contracts. Replacement sponsors have yet to be named, and the championship game itself, scheduled for Jan. 12, 2015, remains unbranded.

Now in preseason hype mode, ESPN actually began educating viewers in June about the coming College Football Playoffs.

An earlier W+K spot featured actor Sean Astin reprising his Rudy character to reimagine fictional Notre Dame teammates about the CFP format and game schedule. A W+K representative told AdFreak, “Our campaign is all about fans’ excitement for the inaugural college football playoff season. Rudy is not only one of the biggest icons of college football, but he’s also one of the sport’s biggest fans. His passion for the game is representative of the passion of all college football fans.”

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