ESPN this week plans to announce that ABC will "carry two hours of the NFL scouting combine" after making a deal in November to put the entire NFL Draft on ABC, according to Bryan Curtis of THE RINGER. A slot on broadcast TV is an "unlikely milestone for the combine" and gives a "boost" to the longtime NFL Network event. The NFL "worked with combine organizers and then ABC so that the network window will feature quarterback and wide receiver workouts." NFL VP/Media Strategy & Business Development Amanda Herald said that ESPN "added slightly more money to its current deal with the NFL to show the combine and expanded draft coverage." For the first two days of its ABC Draft coverage, ESPN "will create a parallel show hosted by the 'College GameDay' crew -- a way of luring more college football fans into the NFL offseason." Since former ESPN President John Skipper resigned, ESPN’s executive class has been "working a charm offensive" on the NFL. ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus said the net's relationship with the league is in a "wonderful place right now." Magnus: “It’s this draft deal. The combine deal. ... The schedule we got from these guys for 'Monday Night Football' last year. I feel like the NFL has responded to a new day at ESPN relative to the relationship.” A source said of the new combine deal, “It’s like, what can we do to make sure we’re best friends again?” (THERINGER.com, 2/12).
NFL Films has "interest in having the Jets" on HBO's "Hard Knocks" later this year, but the feeling "isn’t mutual," according to sources cited by Manish Mehta of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The Jets "might be a perfect fit for the next installment" of the training camp show "given all their colorful personalities." To date, the Jets "have not had any formal discussions with NFL Films." Sources said that NFL Films "kicks off those types of conversations with potential teams in March." NFL Films "typically doesn’t ask teams with new head coaches to be on the show, but the Jets’ motley crew has created a curiosity internally among some of those folks." However, the team is "exempt from appearing on the show due to guidelines set forth by owners six years ago," as they have a first-year coach in Adam Gase and have "appeared on the show in the past 10 years." There are "only five teams that won’t have the right to refuse" to be on the show: the Giants, Redskins, Raiders, 49ers and Lions (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/12).
THROWING OFF THE SCENT: In Detroit, Justin Rogers notes Lions coach Matt Patricia "wants nothing to do with 'Hard Knocks.'" The second-year coach at yesterday's season-ticket holder summit said, "Jon Gruden is an excellent choice for that show. I think the Oakland Raiders and everything they've got going on right now would be fantastic viewing for everybody to watch." The Raiders are a "compelling choice given Gruden's larger-than-life personality, three first-round picks, and the fact the team remains without a home" for '19 before their move to Las Vegas (DETROIT NEWS, 2/12).
The documentary films arm of Showtime Sports is at work on a series that goes inside the sports betting world, using the most recent NFL season as a backdrop. Titled “Action," the four-part series slated to debut March 24 follows the lives of professional gamblers, oddsmakers and bookmakers -- both legal and illegal -- chronicling the move toward regulated, state-sponsored sports betting coming off of last year’s watershed Supreme Court ruling. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro and broadcaster and VSIN co-Founder Brent Musburger all make appearances in the series, which is produced by Boardwalk Pictures in association with Keep On Running Pictures.
Cheez-It (@cheezit) has learned the power of social media first-hand. Cheez-It Senior Dir of Marketing Jeff Delonis said several years ago there were conversations regarding the few overcooked crackers in Cheez-It boxes. He said, “The more we found that conversation, we found that there is a strong fanbase for these Cheez-It crackers that were baked extra long, and it gave birth to the idea of the Extra Toasty Cheez-It cracker. It has been launched as nationally available and there is a lot of growth behind it.” He said that finding its place in the social landscape is something the brand won’t force. But sometimes the Twitterverse hands you a gem. Recently, the fire alarm went off in Hornets F Frank Kaminsky's apartment building. Kaminsky grabbed a box of Cheez-Its, but gave it to a neighbor while he carried her baby down 46 stories. Delonis: “There is a natural connection with our fans and fans at large where we can see ourselves in some of those events. There is a little bit of humor in that the Cheez-It box made it through the fire drill.”
Importance of sports to Cheez-It’s social media strategy:
Snacks often become an important part of that game-watching experience. Social media has become a big part as well. There is a natural tendency for the football-watching experience to make it a sharing occasion. When you put those pieces together, it becomes a natural way for Cheez-It to enter the conversation in a relevant way.
Why college football is a good fit for the brand:
Snacks are important to the gameday experience, whether they are at a tailgate, at home. It’s a natural place to be. Cheez-It already has a long history with sports. We had the title sponsorship for the first-ever Cheez-It Bowl, formerly the Cactus Bowl, 20-25 NCAA schools for football and basketball. We have a presence at home games, and we have a chance to bring some of the Cheez-It fun to campus through tailgate activities. We have some recent partnerships with MLS and NASCAR. From a college football standpoint, a lot of people still associate Cheez-It with "ESPN College GameDay," even though it is not something we are involved with currently. But we do have that heritage.
How engagement changes during college football season:
We definitely place a priority to reaching out to our fans during college football season. Through the Wendy’s College Tailgate Tour, we have a chance to bring the Cheez-It experience to the stadiums. Sometimes, we are able to have a celebrity football player, perhaps a past player from that school will join us on campus and create an opportunity for pictures and social media posts to help create engagement. We make a dedicated push that time of year. We also see fans will start to invoke Cheez-It as they are watching already anyway, and we certainly saw that in December with significant social interaction through the Cheez-It Bowl.
Keeping the spirit of the TV ads alive on social media:
The spirit of the ads comes down to the sense of enjoyment, the sense of fun. We focus on not just replaying the video, but we take an approach and look at the different social channels we work on and create different content for the specific social channels with best practices in mind. A big part of that is leveraging our distinctive assets for the brand in that environment, whether that is the recognizable Cheez-It font or the consistency of the tone or the copy. The cheese wheel, which we affectionately refer to as Cheese, has a significance presence in the TV ads and brings a sense of humor.
Not as active on Instagram:
We have explored and looked at a lot of the different social media channels. At this point in time, what we learned is Twitter gives us a unique opportunity and has created some of the greatest sparks for conversations with our fans. We continue to explore Instagram and have done a lot of work on Facebook, but continue to look at those areas but focus on where we’ve gotten that spark and see a lot of passion.
Fine line with interjecting in social conversations:
It’s an important one and something we talk about quite a bit. There are places where it’s easy to try to go down the path to find something spiking from a cultural standpoint. But if the brand doesn’t fit, it’s not a good place, and we’ll call that out and decide against it. We want to be humorous, we want to be fun, we want to be engaging, but it is very important for the brand to be authentic and talk to our consumers in an authentic way.
We had a "grate" time with @UMichFootball & @OhioStateFB fans + @OrlandoPace_HOF at our Cheez-It tailgate last weekend! Come see us next time at the @CheezItBowl on Dec. 26! pic.twitter.com/3KBu9TjSv3— CHEEZ-IT (@cheezit) November 29, 2018
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In N.Y., Andrew Marchand notes NBA sideline reporter Cassidy Hubbarth "chose to stay with ESPN over an opportunity with Yahoo/Turner, and there is a Twitter component." She will begin a "new half-hour Twitter pregame show called 'Hoop Streams' before showcase Saturday NBA games on ABC." The shows will be "live from the arenas." Sources said that had Hubbarth left for Yahoo/Turner, she "could have been part of the social media show, 'The Bounce.'" Hubbarth, who also hosts college football studio coverage, has over 120,000 Twitter followers, and her career has "grown with the NBA’s social media presence" (N.Y. POST, 2/12).
TIME FOR A NEW STREAK: On Long Island, Neil Best noted last Thursday's Islanders-Devils game "marked the first broadcast" Islanders radio play-by-play announcer Chris King "missed because of illness or injury in 25 years." King visited his cardiologist for "further tests on Friday" before returning to the booth for Avalanche-Islanders on Saturday. He is due back for more tests "in the coming weeks" (NEWSDAY, 2/10).
MOVING FORWARD: An ESPN spokesperson said that the net has "'amicably resolved our dispute with Doug Adler,' including the intent to hire him for future ESPN tennis events." In '17, ESPN fired Adler for comments he made during a Venus Williams match at the Australian Open. A wrongful termination suit set for L.A. Superior Court in October had been delayed until May of this year, but Adler said his lawsuit was "never about the money, it was always about my reputation and credibility." Adler could "go back on the air" in July during ESPN's coverage at Wimbledon (L.A. TIMES, 2/12).