SBD/May 2, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

ESPN Seeing More Groups Buy Ads Aimed At Appealing To Obama, White House Officials

Businesses and trade associations aiming to catch the attention of President Barack Obama are “doing something a little strange: they’re buying up airtime on ESPN,” according to Anna Palmer of POLITICO. Media strategists said that they “offer up the all-sports network as an option to clients who want to get their issues in front of Obama and top White House officials.” One strategist said that the ads “can’t be so obvious that Obama knows he’s the intended audience.” Microsoft took to "MNF" to "bash Google.” It “raised questions about Google’s business practices just as federal regulators were considering bringing actions against Google over competition issues.” Int'l Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Communications Dir Jim Spellane said that the union’s advertising on ESPN is “part of a broader effort to reintroduce the IBEW to the public.” Purple Strategies Founding Partner Bruce Haynes said that the strategy also “reflects the desire to embrace data over experts.” Palmer noted ESPN “isn’t used just to attract inside-the-Beltway viewers.” The net “tried to attract more political ads in the run-up to the presidential election on college and NFL football programs.” The Wesleyan Media Project “tracked just over 450” political ads running on ESPN and ESPN2 during the ‘12 campaign season. The project estimated that more than $4M was "spent on the effort with the vast majority of the ads aired by the Obama campaign.” Political strategy firm AKPD Partner Larry Grisolano said that the reason the Obama campaign "chose to go up on ESPN was because 'sports programming has a high concentration of non-partisan, ideological viewers.'" Trade group Americans for Clean Coal Electricity also has “employed this strategy running ads on the Speed Channel and sponsoring” Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR team (, 5/1).
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