If you watch sports in the US, you most likely watch them on ESPN, and if you watch them online, you probably turn to ESPN+. In fact, ESPN+ is the number-one network in over-the-top (OTT) digital programming for both live sports and on-demand programming, and it’s poised to become even bigger with the ongoing shift in American viewing habits toward streaming, OTT, and Connected TV (CTV) media, over traditional, linear TV.
If you’re a business wanting to reach sports fans, you need to advertise on these all-important networks. However, it’s notoriously difficult to get an ad buy at ESPN or ESPN+ – neither they, nor their parent company Disney, are interested in working with many partners. Lucky for you, Click Here Digital’s own Chief Information Officer, Glenn Hawkins has secured a partnership with access to the vast ESPN+ catalog and advertising space. Glenn has 15 years of experience in the digital marketing space, so I sat down with him to get the low-down on how advertising on ESPN+ can impact our clients’ businesses.
The difference between ESPN and ESPN+ might seem trivial at first, but in terms of their reach and purpose, they’re quite different. When I posed this question to Glenn, he said:
"Don’t get confused between ESPN+ and ESPN even though both share a number of similarities targeting sports fans. The difference is that ESPN+ is a standalone service which brings together on-demand content, original programming, behind the scenes, and free content which can’t be found on other ESPN networks all in one area. ESPN is the actual channel which broadcasts live events or scheduled programming. ESPN is still the preferred go-to for anyone wanting to watch sports events live, while ESPN+ is a way to expand the content you can access and watch."
ESPN has spent years shoring up its sports media offerings, and basically means sports to the average viewer. With the addition of the on-demand content, original programming, and more that ESPN+ provides, it captures 340% more unique visitors month-to-month over its next competitor, with 38% greater reach and 45% more market penetration. In fact, it receives more sports traffic than the next eight sports apps combined.
For these reasons, Glenn notes that "ESPN live streaming and video on demand (VOD) is an absolute must for anyone serious in wanting to reach their target audience when they’re really ‘leaning in.’"
He said that ESPN+ “watchers” – people tuning into the specific content on ESPN and ESPN+ – “are highly engaged in what they are watching. With live sports more than 90% of people watching want to watch it live with their friends and families. ESPN is a great way to target and push your message to an audience that usually reaches more than just one person.”
ESPN+ hits the sweet spot, gaining both the reach of traditional broadcast media along with the rich analytics possibilities of digital. This is perhaps the most powerful benefit of ESPN+, or as Glenn told me: “The opportunities are endless. You can reach your audience through multiple mediums, from what you’re familiar with in other digital channels you’re already advertising in, like banner ads, video ads, in-content ads, and shoppable ads, while also reaching consumers of content on Apple and Android smartphones, Apple TV, Amazon Fire devices, Roku, Samsung smart TVs, Chromecast, PlayStation, XBox, and even the Oculus Go.”
Add to that the following statistics about sports content in general, and ESPN in specific, and it’s easy to see why partnering with an ESPN-capable marketing firm is easily the fastest way to increase your audience engagement and return on investment:
Plus, sports content is simply great to advertise with, as Glenn pointed out.
All ads are brand safe where engagement is not driven by negative, political, or tragic events. So there is no need to worry about your brand showing alongside events that you wouldn’t want to show alongside with.
And ESPN+ in particular sweetens the pot by offering the following benefits with their display and video ads:
Because ESPN has agreements with all the major linear TV networks like Cox, Dish Network, DirecTV, Spectrum, and more, you can show the same ads to linear TV customers as you do on ESPN+ and ESPN.com. Instead of making separate purchases for each provider you might find customers on, you can make one ad buy with ESPN+ that will propagate to wherever your customers are. Or as Glenn told me, “You can think of ESPN as the all-in-one sports package and omni-present approach. Live TV? You’re covered, All platforms, networks, and devices? You’re there.”
You may be thinking 'what’s the price tag compared to other forms of media buys?' If you’re a smaller or mid-size business that can’t fork up the hefty price for local TV spots during prime hours, you can do so with ESPN live streaming and VOD. Remember that when people are accessing this content it’s on-demand, so every hour is “prime time”. This is perfect for both regional and national reach into the sports arena.
And the best part is, there are no huge upfront commitments! You can start off with $3,000 per month with only a two-month commitment! There are no lofty minimums that you may have become accustomed to with ESPN.
As mentioned above, ESPN+ combines the reach of traditional, linear programming with the analytics and targeting of newer programmatic advertising, like digital display, over-the-top (OTT), search ads, and more. By utilizing the capabilities of ESPN+, Glenn told me, “you’re not only platform-agnostic, you’re tactic-agnostic. You’re able to target any screen size, on any device, and differentiate by network. The great thing is, you also have the same demographic-targeting capabilities you’re used to with digital, including gender, age, income levels, and others.”
Plus, since ESPN is such a large player in the sports market, “the icing on the cake is that you can buy programmatically, utilizing ESPN’s rich 1st-party data established on the groundwork of fan behavior and browsing habits, or layer on 3rd-party audience segments from top data providers for criteria like decision-makers, people in-market for a specific type of vehicle, or even those who have a high propensity of making an online purchase.”
When people consider “cutting the cord,” or taking broadcast TV out of their house completely, sports - especially live sports - is their number-one concern. ESPN+ is where consumers can find that sports content they crave, so by buying with ESPN, companies are well-positioned to provide targeted advertising to those demographics.
Click Here Digital is one of the few marketing firms that ESPN works with, so if you want to reach your customers while they watch football, catch up on their teams’ scores on the ESPN+ app, watch on-demand documentaries like the award-winning 30 for 30, or engage with other content, you need to partner with someone like us who has access to the platform.
When you partner with Click Here, we can provide a full-spectrum digital marketing experience, including everything from ESPN+ to more traditional digital vectors like paid search, SEO, social media, and other OTT channels. Our high-touch management style is designed to give you control of your goals while we take care of the details of implementing the advertising methods.
Glenn and the other members of the Click Here team are constantly working to improve our customers’ advertising effectiveness, increase their ROI, and drive engagement and ultimately sales. See what Click Here can do for you by dropping us a line today.