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SBJ/October 22-28, 2012/Law and PoliticsPrint All
Writers David Broughton and Bill King on how political campaigns have spent their money in sports.
In September, fans watching football in Cleveland saw their Ohio State Buckeyes win five times, their Browns lose four times, and President Barack Obama approve this message 166 times.
Campaign advertising has taken over the airwaves as never before this presidential election season, with analysts estimating that television spending by the two sides and the political action committees that support them will exceed $1 billion, almost all of it pouring into a dozen battleground states set to determine the winner.
More than ever before, political analysts say, that spending has made its way beyond its traditional place on news and talk shows and onto the air occupied by a state’s favored teams.
And so, in Florida, where the race for 29 electoral votes remains tight, the two campaigns and the PACs spent $5.7 million for 1,360 spots on network affiliates in the five largest markets in the 10 critical weeks that began in August — on sports alone.
In Ohio, the total for sports spots on network affiliates in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus in that period reached $3.78 million and 915 spots.
They bought heavily in NFL games, in college football and during the Olympics, and dabbled in baseball, NASCAR, tennis and golf.
Over the past three weeks, SportsBusiness Journal reviewed and analyzed more than 5,000 purchase orders, contracts and invoices filed with the Federal Communications Commission by stations in 21 markets covering nine battleground states from Aug. 2 to Oct. 12 — documents that before a recent FCC mandate were available only by request at station offices.
Basketball fan Obama (with NBA’s Adam Silver and Nike’s Charlie Denson) is a strong presence on college football.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
The campaigns spent $13.6 million in the nine perceived battleground states we examined: Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Minnesota. All but $2 million came from the first four states on that list. We did not review records from the projected battlegrounds of Virginia and Nevada.
“Sports is a significant piece of the puzzle because it’s one of the last bastions of undecideds or passive late-deciding voters,” said Elizabeth Wilner, vice president for strategic initiatives at Kantar Media’s campaign analysis group, which
Romney (at Richmond this month) is in NASCAR more than the president.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
“In the markets where the candidates are still active, you’ve got a lot of sports fans.”
The heaviest play came in the most-watched sports programming of the campaign season: The NFL, where the campaigns and PACs spent $7.85 million for 1,365 spots; the Olympics, where they dropped $3.04 million for 760 spots crammed into two weeks; and college football, where they spent $2.05 million for 872 spots.
With only a few Saturday afternoon Fox games and advance buys of the postseason on its national menu, MLB was a distant fourth at $211,490 for 93 spots, with 73 percent of that coming in Florida. Golf telecasts brought in $165,660 for 123 spots, U.S. Open tennis $141,895 for 147 spots, and NASCAR $127,900 for 73 spots in two ABC prime-time races.
In the 21 markets, Obama’s campaign outspent Romney $5.1 million to $4 million on sports, but the spot count was nearly even, with Obama leading 1,291 to 1,224. Romney’s PACs tipped the overall scale heavily in his favor, adding in 888 spots for $4.4 million.
FCC rules entitle campaigns to the lowest rate offered for a given class of ad time, allowing them to pay far less than many advertisers. The campaigns also frequently agree to be pre-empted without notice, cutting the price even more. PACs must negotiate market rates.
The choices varied not only by state but by markets within states.
The campaigns and PACs spent $2.4 million in Tampa and $1.8 million in Orlando, but only $515,000 in Miami, the largest market of the three. They combined to spend $150,110 on MLB in Tampa — where the Tampa Bay Rays aired on Fox during the pennant race — but no more than $16,000 on the sport in any other Florida market. Romney spent more on NFL games in Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville, but Obama spent more on it in Tampa and West Palm Beach.
The director of the Obama campaign’s spot buying operation, GMMB partner Brad Perseke, declined comment for this story, saying the firm does not discuss client work. The Romney campaign did not respond to interview requests. But political media strategists said none of the market-by-market variances were happenstance. The emergence of big data and the growth of buying operations has allowed campaigns to target voters more specifically. That data has drawn campaigns to sports programming, and to specific plays within it.
Craig Sloan, senior vice president of national advertising sales for Home Team Sports, said his RSNs are seeing more political activity than they did in 2008. Sloan said the difference mirrors the increased money advertisers are spending on sports.
“Sports wasn’t always relevant to political campaigns,” Sloan said. “As the environment has changed in the marketplace and sports has taken on more prominence, they have come to pay more attention to it. … Two years from now, I’d anticipate that we’ll be having even more success because it’s just a mindset that they are starting to believe.”
The local focus
As in past years, the presidential candidates have stayed clear of most of the national opportunities in sports. Obama spent about $6 million with NBC on Olympic advertising. He also has been active for the baseball playoffs on TBS. But that’s been about it, network executives said.
“We’ve done basically nothing with the presidential campaigns,” said Seth Winter, NBC’s executive vice president of sales and marketing. “Most of the money is being poured locally into the swing states.”
Fox is telling a similar story.
One reason candidates have stayed away from national sports platforms is cost. A 60-second spot on “Sunday Night Football,” for example, costs more than $1 million, sources say. The campaigns can afford more ad time if they buy those same games locally.
Consider the way the campaigns approached the final “SNF” telecast of September, which featured the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles, two teams from massive media markets, one in a state that is decidedly in the Obama column and the other in one that is mentioned as a swing state, but hasn’t attracted campaign ad dollars since the end of July.
The campaigns passed on a $1 million spot that would have bought them New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Dallas — all markets that are of little significance to them. Instead, they focused on battlegrounds. Obama’s campaign bought “SNF” locally in Tampa and Jacksonville. Romney’s bought it in Charlotte, Miami and Milwaukee. Both bought in Orlando, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.
In Raleigh and West Palm Beach, both bought the less expensive “Football Night in America” pregame, which went for $1,000 and $900 per 30 seconds, respectively.
Obama bought two-minute spots in four markets and each campaign bought multiple spots in some markets, bringing the total spent on the game and the pregame in the four states to $376,400.
But, for a more appropriate comparison to the $1 million, 30-second national rate, consider that if one of the campaigns had purchased one spot in each of the nine battleground markets, it could have covered all that territory for $83,000. And that includes the $30,000 that Romney paid for his spot in Miami that night. The rest ranged from $3,500 in Jacksonville to $7,500 in Charlotte.
Political consultants say that reach is only one measure of a campaign’s media equation. Frequency is another. Campaign spots are more likely to begin to swing a voter if the voter has seen them five or six times.
In Tampa, the Republicans blanketed Olympic programming morning, noon and night.
Romney’s campaign bought three spots each day during weekday mornings and afternoons, paying $700 a spot. It bought four spots at $1,000 each morning the first weekend and two at $7,500 in the afternoon on the second weekend. It bought spots during the nightly, locally produced “Olympic Zone” show for $2,200 each.
With the Republican National Convention on the horizon, conservative-leaning PACs bought some of the most expensive real estate on television in Tampa-St. Petersburg, spending $459,900 in the 16 days of Olympic telecasts.
One spent $76,000 on three prime-time spots. Another bought a $33,000 spot on the opening ceremony and three prime-time spots at $20,000 each during the games. A third bought two $30,000 spots during the closing ceremony.
It was the planting of a flag in the market that was about to host the convention. Romney PACs spent five times more on Olympic programming in Tampa than they did in Orlando, 85 miles away. Their spend in Tampa nearly tripled the $165,400 they put into the other four Florida markets combined.
In contrast, the Obama campaign did not buy any spots on sports in Charlotte in the weeks leading up to the Democratic National Convention, held Sept. 4-6. Obama bought two $7,200 slots in the Carolina Panthers game Sept. 9, then ordered another in the Panthers game Oct. 7 for $7,500.
Charlotte is also one of the markets in which Obama bought deep into the baseball postseason, placing orders for a combined seven spots on three LCS games and also reserving two spots for $2,100 each on Game 6 of the World Series — if it’s necessary, and if he’s not pre-empted out of the slots.
That the Obama campaign was looking that far ahead, and buying baseball in a market without an MLB team, is an indication of the size and complexity of the operation buying its media.
“As with everything else when it comes to TV advertising placement and media buying strategy, Obama leads the way [in sports],” said Mark McKinnon, a political consultant who led the ad strategy for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. “They were on during NASCAR, they’re on during college ball, they were on last weekend during MLB. They even rolled out a new spot narrated by Morgan Freeman during baseball last weekend. Romney has been playing catch-up, is doing better lately but wasn’t anywhere for a long time.”
Cable joins in
ESPN figured the way to grab some of the local dollars was by going local. Earlier this year, it cut a deal with NCC, a cable operator group that acts as a middleman selling local ad spots for network and the advertisers.
That local push has been working for cable networks, where Obama has been outspending Romney as much as 10-to-1 on Fox Sports’ regional sports networks.
“Obama’s been on since May. Romney only came on recently,” said Stephen Ullman, regional vice president of partnership development for Home Team Sports, a division of Fox Sports. “Within college football it’s probably 2-to-1. But within baseball or overall spend in eight to 10 swing states, Obama’s spending substantially more.”
Since late May, Obama has had a heavy MLB schedule with FSN, which sells spots on non-Fox RSNs through Home Team Sports. His main focus was on swing states, with teams such as the Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals. Romney stayed out of baseball, Ullman said.
Last month, Obama’s campaign started pouring money into college football, buying time on Big Ten Network, which serves the swing states of Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“If you were to buy Ohio State football on an ABC affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, it would probably cost you through the nose just for that one market,” Ullman said. “The campaigns came to us to buy the Big Ten and they get the entire state and every DMA in the state of Ohio for relatively the same cost.”
In fact, the candidates have spent big on Ohio State football in Columbus. Obama bought on Buckeyes games on each weekend in September, paying $16,000 to $18,000 a spot on three of those dates and $32,000 on the fourth. He also has orders in on future games at $16,000 a spot.
Romney has bought college football in Columbus, but done it far less and opted for less expensive games, paying $1,000 to $3,000 a spot. Obama outspent Romney $180,800 to $28,000 on college games in the market.
Romney also has spent on college football on the RSNs.
“We see this in other categories, but it really happens here: It gets competitive,” said Sloan, of Home Team Sports. “One spends in a certain place and the other one will respond without us even needing to push it. As soon as Obama started in the college football, Romney followed suit.”
Ullman said FSN capitalized on Obama’s strategy to start spending on media early in the campaign, even before Romney officially won his party’s nomination.
Comcast’s RSNs are not seeing much presidential activity. But Comcast executive vice president Ray Warren said the networks are seeing more local political dollars this year, most focused on small races or ballot issues. Its CSN Northwest received its first political dollars this year around a local ballot initiative about same-sex marriages.
“We’re not getting that local [candidate] money,” Warren said. “We’re getting more issue money. Frankly, we are seeing a significant increase in revenue in this area.”
Two years ago, the trade association for local broadcast TV put out a research report to guide stations in attracting political spending. It broke out programming by segment, including sports. It found that golf viewers were more likely to be “somewhat conservative” and that college basketball fans were the most likely to be “somewhat liberal.”
The most likely place to find “middle of the road” viewers, who might be convinced to swing one way or the other? The NFL — which is precisely the place you will find the most sports spots in the swing states.
“When people watch sports, they’re not looking for politics,” Wilner said. “That’s one reason you advertise there. You might find the undecideds there. As much as people yell about how much has been spent on television in this campaign, the fact is that’s where the voters are. And they’re not coming looking for you. You have to push it to them.”
The following is a sampling of contributions to the presidential campaigns of the Democratic and Republican nominees by sports owners, executives and other employees, and players identified in Federal Election Commission documents by their league and team affiliations. Figures represent the contributions for the 2012 election cycle through Aug. 31. Individual contributions are limited by law to $5,000 ($2,500 for the primary and $2,500 for the general election) per candidate. Individuals who have left the organizations they were listed with on the documents have been noted when possible.
MLB John Henry Boston Red Sox Larry Lucchino Boston Red Sox Laura Ricketts Chicago Cubs Sammy Sosa Chicago Cubs (a) Judd Malkin Chicago White Sox Allan Muchin Chicago White Sox Jim Crane Houston Astros Todd Boehly Los Angeles Dodgers Magic Johnson Los Angeles Dodgers Robert Patton Los Angeles Dodgers Mark Walter Los Angeles Dodgers David Samson Miami Marlins Bill Pohlad Minnesota Twins Bob Pohlad Minnesota Twins Jim Pohlad Minnesota Twins Joe Pohlad Minnesota Twins Philip Halperin San Francisco Giants MLS Andrew Hauptman Chicago Fire NBA Robert Epstein Boston Celtics Stephen Pagliuca Boston Celtics Glenn “Doc” Rivers Boston Celtics Michael Jordan Charlotte Bobcats Baron Davis Cleveland Cavaliers (b) Vince Carter Dallas Mavericks Bruce Karsh Golden State Warriors Andy Elisburg Miami Heat Bennett Kireker NBA David Stern NBA Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Allan Houston New York Knicks Patrick Ewing Orlando Magic Grant Hill Orlando Magic/Los Angeles Clippers (c) Adam Aron Philadelphia 76ers Sean Elliott San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich San Antonio Spurs NFL Calais Campbell Arizona Cardinals Delores Barr Weaver Jacksonville Jaguars (d) Jahri Evans New Orleans Saints Antrel Rolle New York Giants Jonathan Tisch New York Giants Dan Rooney Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Tomlin Pittsburgh Steelers Dale “Chip” Rosenbloom St. Louis Rams Takeo Spikes San Diego Chargers Vernon Davis San Francisco 49ers Avram Glazer Tampa Bay Buccaneers Domonique Foxworth NFLPA Vonnie Holliday NFL (e) NHL Cliff Viner Florida Panthers Donn Lux St. Louis Blues David Steward St. Louis Blues Mike Comrie NHL (f) MULTIPLE LEAGUES Ted Leonsis Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics Robert Kraft New England Patriots, New England Revolution
MLB Marla Lerner Tanenbaum Washington Nationals NBA Kerry Chandler NBA Adonal Foyle Orlando Magic (g) Adam Silver NBA NFL Arthur Blank Atlanta Falcons Derick Close Carolina Panthers Elliott Close Carolina Panthers DeMaurice Smith NFLPA NHL Susan Samueli Anaheim Ducks
MLB Ken Kendrick Arizona Diamondbacks Phillip Morse Boston Red Sox Peter Ricketts Chicago Cubs Joe Williams Cincinnati Reds Tom Williams Cincinnati Reds Paul Dolan Cleveland Indians Arte Moreno Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Jeffrey Loria Miami Marlins Robert Beyer Milwaukee Brewers John Canning Jr. Milwaukee Brewers Marc Stern Milwaukee Brewers Ivan Seidenberg New York Mets John Middleton Philadelphia Phillies Bill Nutting Pittsburgh Pirates Allan Byer San Francisco Giants Peter Magowan San Francisco Giants Bill DeWitt Jr. St. Louis Cardinals Darcy Raymond Tampa Bay Rays NASCAR Chip Ganassi Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Felix Sabates Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Marcus Smith Charlotte Motor Speedway Lesa France Kennedy ISC Jim France NASCAR Sharon France NASCAR Mike Helton NASCAR Stephen O’Donnell NASCAR Steve Phelps NASCAR Richard Childress Richard Childress Racing NBA Danny Ainge Boston Celtics Dan Gilbert Cleveland Cavaliers Fred Harman Golden State Warriors Daryl Morey Houston Rockets Herb Simon Indiana Pacers Barbara Hyde Memphis Grizzlies Pat Riley Miami Heat Clay Bennett Oklahoma City Thunder Aubrey McClendon Oklahoma City Thunder G. Jeffrey Records Jr. Oklahoma City Thunder Dan DeVos Orlando Magic Dick DeVos Orlando Magic Doug DeVos Orlando Magic Rich DeVos Orlando Magic Josh Harris Philadelphia 76ers David Blitzer Philadelphia 76ers Robert Sarver Phoenix Suns NFL Michael Bidwill Arizona Cardinals Nicole Bidwill Arizona Cardinals William Bidwill Arizona Cardinals Brian Barker Atlanta Falcons Douglas Hertz Atlanta Falcons Donald Keough Carolina Panthers Jerry Wordsworth Carolina Panthers Steve Wordsworth Carolina Panthers Andrew McKenna Chicago Bears Patrick Ryan Chicago Bears Mike Brown Cincinnati Bengals Philip Burguières Houston Texans Bob McNair Houston Texans Kay Onstead Houston Texans Fayez Sarofim Houston Texans Shahid Khan Jacksonville Jaguars Wayne Weaver Jacksonville Jaguars (a) Stephen Ross Miami Dolphins Woody Johnson New York Jets Alex Spanos San Diego Chargers Daniel Snyder Washington Redskins NHL Jeremy Jacobs Sr. Boston Bruins Jeremy Jacobs Jr. Boston Bruins Terry Pegula Buffalo Sabres Peter Karmanos Carolina Hurricanes John McConnell Columbus Blue Jackets Albert Maroone Florida Panthers Michael Maroone Florida Panthers James Nederlander Florida Panthers Cliff Viner Florida Panthers Jordan Zimmerman Florida Panthers Thomas Cigarran Nashville Predators DeWitt Thompson IV Nashville Predators Ed Snider Philadelphia Flyers James Cooper St. Louis Blues Donn Lux St. Louis Blues Jo Ann Taylor Kindle St. Louis Blues David Steward St. Louis Blues MULTIPLE LEAGUES Tom Benson New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Hornets James Dolan New York Knicks, New York Rangers Clark Hunt Kansas City Chiefs, FC Dallas, Columbus Crew Michael Ilitch Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings
MLB Bob Castellini Cincinnati Reds Phil Castellini Cincinnati Reds Larry Dolan Cleveland Indians Marne Obernauer Jr. Colorado Rockies Peter Coors Colorado Rockies Julia Kauffman Kansas City Royals Richard Ressler Milwaukee Brewers Al Leiter MLB & YES Network Fred Wilpon New York Mets Randy Levine New York Yankees Bill Giles Philadelphia Phillies William Buck Philadelphia Phillies Bob Nutting Pittsburgh Pirates George Drysdale San Francisco Giants Charles Johnson San Francisco Giants David Wolff San Francisco Giants Richard Kendall Tampa Bay Rays MLS Jay Sugarman Philadelphia Union Greg Maday Sporting Kansas City NASCAR Rick Hendrick Hendrick Motorsports Brian France NASCAR Jill Gregory NASCAR Marc Jenkins NASCAR Brett Jewkes NASCAR Lucy Phillips NASCAR Andrew Schwalb NASCAR Paula Votaw NASCAR Judy Childress Richard Childress Racing NBA Vivek Ranadivé Golden State Warriors Everett Dobson Oklahoma City Thunder Jerry Colangelo Phoenix Suns NFL Ed Mendel Atlanta Falcons Derek Smith Atlanta Falcons John Harris Carolina Panthers Troy Blackburn Cincinnati Bengals James Haslam Cleveland Browns Jerry Jones Dallas Cowboys John Elway Denver Broncos Jeffrey Gorman Indianapolis Colts Peter Ward Indianapolis Colts Ronald Katz Miami Dolphins Leonard Wilf Minnesota Vikings Rita Benson LeBlanc New Orleans Saints Matt Higgins New York Jets (b) Thad Sheely New York Jets (c) Mike Tannenbaum New York Jets Kimberly Ross NFL David Abrams Oakland Raiders A.J. Smith San Diego Chargers Dean Spanos San Diego Chargers Michael Spanos San Diego Chargers Arthur Smith Tennessee Titans NHL Wayne Huizenga Florida Panthers Ed Roski Los Angeles Kings Stanley Hubbard Minnesota Wild Craig Leipold Minnesota Wild Herbert Fritch Nashville Predators Michael McCarthy St. Louis Blues (d) Jeffrey Vinik Tampa Bay Lightning MULTIPLE LEAGUES Lew Wolf Oakland Athletics, San Jose Earthquakes
For the third straight presidential election, minor league baseball franchise owner the Goldklang Group played host to Bobblection, a stadium giveaway that let fans “vote” for a candidate by choosing between a Mitt Romney and a Barack Obama bobblehead figure.
Romney and Obama bobbles duked it out in nine markets.
Photo by:GOLDKLANG GROUP
Romney won in six of the nine markets.
The poll, which started in 2004, correctly predicted the past two presidential winners. Obama swept the six-team field in 2008.
Florham Park, N.J.-based Goldklang Group, which owns four minor league teams, trademarked the Bobblection moniker in 2008. Match-Up Promotions, a Longwood, Fla.-based company that has worked with more than a dozen major league clubs, designed, manufactured and handled the delivery for this summer’s giveaway. The company also set up and ran a site created specifically for fans to monitor how each candidate was doing over the course of the promotion.
The Goldklang Group made the promotion available to all 53 franchises that compete in the four leagues that include a Goldklang team — high Class A Florida State League, low Class A South Atlantic, short-season New York-Penn, and the independent American Association.
The Goldklang Group launched the promotion with Bush and Kerry in 2004.
Photo by:GOLDKLANG GROUP
Polls were closest in two battleground state markets — Fort Myers, Fla., and Asheville, N.C. — and Hudson Valley, N.Y.
Charleston, Hudson Valley and Fort Myers picked the winning candidate in the previous two Bobblections, although at least one of those clubs will see its winning streak come to an end: Charleston this year went back to red, Fort Myers was barely blue, and in Hudson Valley, Romney won by the equivalent of a hanging chad.
In Minnesota, which has voted Democrat in every presidential election dating back to 1976, St. Paul Saints’ fans picked Obama in 2012 and 2008 and chose John Kerry in 2004.
Percentages of all bobbleheads distributed when winner was declared.
Team Romney Obama Asheville (N.C.) Tourists 50.5% 49.5% Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs* 52.0% 48.0% Fargo-Moorhead (N.D.) RedHawks 47.0% 53.0% Fort Myers (Fla.) Miracle* 49.8% 50.2% Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads 57.0% 43.0% Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Renegades* 50.35% 49.65% Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws 52.0% 48.0% Lincoln (Neb.) Saltdogs 51.5% 48.5% St. Paul (Minn.) Saints* 38.0% 62.0%
* Goldklang-owned franchise Source: Goldkang Group
Highest cost per spot
Station (Network) Market Air date Program Start time (ET) Cost per spot Buyer KCNC (CBS) Denver Sept. 30 Oakland-Denver 4 p.m. $104,000 (2 min.) Obama WKRC (CBS) Cincinnati Sept. 30 Cincinnati-Jacksonville 4 p.m. $60,000 (2 min.) Obama WOIO (CBS) Cleveland Sept. 16 Cleveland-Cincinnati 1 p.m. $60,000 (1 min.) Obama WFOR (CBS) Miami Sept. 30 Miami-Arizona 1 p.m. $50,000 Americans for Job Security WFOR (CBS) Miami Oct. 28 Miami-N.Y. Jets 1 p.m. $50,000 Restore Our Future
Lowest cost per spot
Station (Network) Market Air date(s) Program Start time Cost per spot Buyer WAWS (Fox) Jacksonville Sept. 8 Ball State-Clemson (ACC Football syndicated games) Noon $40 Romney KTVD (My Network) Denver Sept. 22 Army-Wake Forest Noon $50 Romney WDJT (CBS) Milwaukee Sept. 15 Alabama-Arkansas (SEC) 3 p.m. $75 Obama KTVD (My Network) Denver Sept. 15 UConn-Maryland, Sept. 22 Army-Wake Forest* Noon $100 Obama
* Seven spots over two Saturdays were purchased at $100 each
Of the 21 markets that we analyzed, Tampa took in the most money from the presidential campaigns and supporting PACs, almost $2.4 millon. A breakdown of their sports spending:
Both presidential campaigns have approached ESPN about appearing on “Monday Night Football” the night before the election.
ESPN has not made a final decision yet, but appears likely to have its longtime NFL studio host Chris Berman interview President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney during halftime of the Eagles-Saints game Nov. 5, according to Vince Doria, ESPN’s senior vice president and director of news. The campaigns also have expressed an interest in appearing on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” morning radio show.
The Obama and Romney camps’ interest in appearing on ESPN is not new.
“Monday Night Football” halftime host Chris Berman talked to Barack Obama and John McCain in separate interviews in 2008.
In 2008, both candidates also separately called into the “Mike and Mike” radio show a few weeks before the election for roughly 10-minute segments that were filled with light banter about sports.
The “Monday Night Football” interviews were kept light, too, with McCain, at one point, parroting two of Berman’s catchphrases. When asked what personal qualities he wanted viewers to remember as they went to the polls, McCain said, “I want them to think: He. Could. Go. All. The. Way. To the White House.” He followed that by saying, “Even though some pundits have written me off, that’s why they play the game.”
Berman conducted the “Monday Night Football” interviews and almost certainly would conduct ones this year, too.
“Chris Berman does halftimes on ‘Monday Night Football.’ Given that’s going to be the vehicle, we’re going to use Chris there,” Doria said. “We’ve come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t necessarily knock our batting order out of place here to accommodate. We believe Chris handled it very well.”
In 2008, Berman asked each candidate three questions. He asked them what they would change in sports. (Obama called for a college football playoff, and McCain said he wanted to do away with performance-enhancing drugs.)
Both candidates referenced high school coaches when Berman asked them for the best piece of advice they received from the sports world.
Doria said questions this year will be similar, meaning they would remain lighter and focused on sports.
“Maybe there are some questions about the safety issue in football, which might be appropriate to that platform,” Doria said. “I want to get stuff that tries to spin forward a little bit and tries to look at things that our viewers are most interested in.”
In fact, ESPN has made a concerted effort to stay out of the political scene this year, a contrast to four years ago when ESPN did pieces on Obama as a sports fan, McCain’s role in trying to clean up boxing and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s basketball and sportscasting background.
“There seemed like a lot of connections with sports back in 2008,” Doria said. “We’ve done a lot of the Obama angles in the past. And Romney, at least on the face of it, is not a guy that has overly emphasized his sports connections or his fandom.”
Romney was the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. But Doria said ESPN is not likely to spend a lot of time dissecting his time with the Games.
“The story there was an issue of organization and financial issues,” Doria said. “Given the length of time between that aspect of it and the issues themselves, it’s not particularly interesting for our viewers at this stage of the game.”
Doria is not surprised that the candidates are interested in appearing on “Monday Night Football” again. Through the first seven games, “Monday Night Football” has averaged 13.8 million viewers, and has been the most-watched show on cable television. Coming the night before the election, the game is a way for the candidates to get a final message out to voters in a relaxed apolitical atmosphere.
“People come to our network, to some degree, looking to escape political coverage,” Doria said. “It’s a constant balance of trying to be responsible on one hand and, on the other hand, understanding what you are and what your viewers are looking for and factor that into it.”
We asked readers who responded to our eighth annual SportsBusiness Journal/SportsBusiness Daily Reader Survey to weigh in on a couple of political questions. Here are the results, gathered online Oct. 8-17. Turnkey Sports & Entertainment provided technical support for the survey.
If the elections were held today, how would you vote?
Barack Obama 46.1% Mitt Romney 38.9% Not sure 10.4% Would not vote 2.6% Another candidate 2.1% Obama, facing off with Romney in the Oct. 16 debate, got the upper hand in our survey.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
What issue in the sports industry should the newly elected Congress most concern itself with in 2013?
None — Congress should not look to engage in the sports industry 61.9% Concussions 18.3% Increasing TV rights fees and impact on consumers 9.1% Performance-enhancing drug use 6.8% College football playoff 1.7% Other 2.2% A strong majority of respondents prefers that Congress stay out of sports.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
A look at spending on sports across our nine battleground states, along with the number of spots bought in each state
Buyer NFL (spots) College football (spots) Olympics (spots) MLB (spots) Golf (spots) NASCAR (spots) Tennis (spots) Obama $3,338,345 (593) $1,146,761 (452) $425,850 (126) $117,100 (43) $15,850 (25) $30,725 (20) $27,875 (32) Obama PAC $3,400 (1) $13,725 (10) $11,700 (13) $0 (0) $200 (1) $4,000 (2) $3,050 (3) Romney $2,403,620 (437) $592,210 (328) $818,150 (248) $36,490 (31) $50,010 (64) $45,125 (24) $86,270 (92) Romney PAC $2,108,245 (334) $298,355 (82) $1,782,690 (373) $57,900 (19) $99,600 (33) $48,050 (27) $24,700 (20) Totals $7.85 million (1,365) $2.05 million (872) $3.04 million (760) $211,490 (93) $165,660 (123) $127,900 (73) $141,895 (147)
Source: FCC filings
Two charts help tell the story for presidential television ad spending on sports in the top-50 markets in nine contested states. For each state, the chart on the left shows the percentage of total sports ad spending since Aug. 1 by the campaigns and their PACs. The chart on the right shows the percentage split among major sports by the combined campaigns and PACs.
The Obama campaign outspent the Romney campaign on sports across our nine battleground states, but adding in PAC spending tips the scales to the Republican side.
When the White House Office of Management and Budget in July ordered the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial rule requiring broadcasting companies to post information about political advertisements online to go into effect by Aug. 2, it was at once a blessing and a curse for a researcher.
The FCC had passed the rule in April, requiring local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates in the country’s 50 largest television markets to provide information about their political ad buys to the FCC, which that entity now posts in an online database. Some members of Congress and the National Association of Broadcasters had lobbied heavily against the disclosure rule, arguing that making public the rates broadcasters charge for ads will harm their business. We hear similar arguments when we ask a sponsor how much they pay for things such as a naming-rights deal.
Before the FCC’s rule, political ad information was made available to the public, but the only way anyone could view it was by going to each station in person to obtain the physical copies.
But sifting through more than 5,000 separate filings, each ranging from one to 40 pages long, we pulled nearly 4,000 unique spots purchased during sports telecasts. Filings were rarely in logical order — a $20,000 “Sunday Night Football” spot was as likely to be found tucked into separate 40-spot buys on “Judge Judy” and “Wheel of Fortune” as it was adjacent to an $1,800 “Football Night in America” buy.
Along the way, we picked up more tidbits than we could possibly publish. For example, a stunning $281,800 was spent on spots during Ohio State football games, 87 percent of which came from President Barack Obama’s campaign. And a World Series buy made a month before the teams were even known costs $2,100 in Charlotte versus $11,250 in Tampa. And NBC affiliates might be happy to know that the Olympics and NFL-related broadcasts on their network helped generate more than 45 percent of all the $13.6 million we tracked.
— David Broughton
For an inside view of how closely the campaigns manage their sports buys, consider the way the Obama campaign handled a buy on Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV in the days leading up to the Sept. 9 prime-time NASCAR race in Richmond.
Before the start of the college football season, the campaign bought a full run of spots on the weekly ABC prime-time game in several battleground markets, including Orlando, where it signed on at a season rate of $3,500 a spot, per game, or $5,400 if it bought three spots in a night.
Because candidates are entitled to the lowest rate offered to any advertiser in a given program, those are only starting points. If another advertiser gets a spot for less, the station must offer the campaign that same, reduced rate. When rates go up, the campaign pays up or bows out. A prime-time ABC college football slot has ranged from $2,700 to $3,300 in Orlando this season.
With NASCAR on the menu on Sept. 8 instead of college football, WFTV revised the rate from $3,500 to $2,200 and offered the slots to the campaign. Rather than moving off the night, the Obama campaign, which has bought NASCAR regionally on ESPN, decided to dive in. On Sept. 6, it placed an $8,800 order for two 60-second spots during the race, run in Richmond. But the campaign wasn’t finished. A day later it changed from the two 60s to four 30s.
That’s the sort of fluid, strategic movement the campaign has executed in contested markets across the country for the last two months.
In all of this, incumbency has its advantages.
“Obama has had the time and resources to invest in an incredibly sophisticated targeting and buying operation,” said Elizabeth Wilner, vice president for strategic initiatives at Kantar Media’s campaign analysis group. “On every front of the air war they have been the leaders, whether through local cable or on sports or somewhere else. They’ve had years to prepare and plan. They’re just ahead of the game. Sports is no different than for anything else.”
— Bill King