SBD/June 9, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

ESPN, Simmons Launch Grantland With Subway, Klondike As Presenting Sponsors

Simmons expects to have three more sponsors signed for Grantland by month's end

ESPN and Bill Simmons launched Grantland.com yesterday with Subway and Klondike as the site's two presenting sponsors, and Simmons expects to have “three more clients, including a luxury auto brand, signed by the end of the month,” according to Anthony Crupi of ADWEEK. Simmons, Grantland's Editor-in-Chief, has "told sponsors that the standard traffic guarantees will not apply" to the new site, which he envisions as a "destination for the kind of thoughtful writing about sports and pop culture that just isn’t viable on a typical content site." Simmons said, "The key element in being able to proceed with this thing was to get the sponsors onboard with the idea that we wouldn’t throw up 60 items every day just to get traffic.” Sponsorship funds will “keep the site from slipping behind a pay wall,” but Simmons will not “have the final word on business decisions” regarding the site, which is owned and operated by ESPN. He said, "I went on a lot of sales meetings. I mean, we have awesome ad sales guys, but I think it’s different if you see the guy with the idea and he’s in the room with you and you can see the look in his eyes. ... From here on out, I want everything I do to be this hands on." Crupi noted Subway and Klondike parent Unilever will “reap the benefits” of the association with ESPN and Grantland. Each company is “set to sponsor a thrice-weekly 90-second feature" during the 1:00am episode of "SportsCenter." Other considerations for the sponsors include “branding in Simmons-hosted video segments and customized ‘SportsCenter’ lead-ins.” Securing Subway sponsorship “was a bit of a layup,” as the company is a “long-time sponsor of Simmons’ podcast.” The benefit of the Unilever deal “is that the company encompasses dozens of relevant brand categories ranging from food to bath soap” (ADWEEK.com, 6/9).

THE MAIDEN VOYAGE: Grantland.com launched at 12:00pm ET yesterday, and the only reference to its parent company on the homepage is a rather subtle link to ESPN.com. The site launched with four articles -- including a “Welcome to Grantland” entry by Simmons -- and has two sections advertised as “Coming Soon." As expected, the debut garnered plenty of discussion on Twitter. Sirius XM Radio Exec Producer Brent Gambill: “Initial thoughts on @Grantland33. Very corporate look with Subway & KlondikeBar...and VERY Boston feel. One is surprising. One is not.” The Daily’s Dan Wolken: “Grantland's two big debut stories are on obscure personal experiences of the writers. Will be interesting to see the response.” New York magazine’s Will Leitch: “It's probably a good sign that my sole complaint about @Grantland33 so far is that they don't have RSS feeds for their writers.” National Post’s Bruce Arthur: “One comment on @Grantland33: What a great way to use footnotes.” The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre: “Wow, an F-bomb on Grantland!” Media writer Dan Levy: “Damn...an F bomb in paragraph six. Consider the WWL's wheel...re-invented” (THE DAILY).

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