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Volume 23 No. 18
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Bryant wrote foreword in new children’s book

One of Kobe Bryant’s last projects with ESPN was to work on a series of children’s books with National Geographic, the sports company’s corporate cousin since Disney bought 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets last year.


The first of those books, called “It’s a Numbers Game: Basketball,” hit bookstores last week and includes a foreword written by the former NBA star who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. The book’s release date was scheduled months ago, well before Bryant’s accident.

“Kobe Bryant was very involved with our corporate citizenship program and a campaign called ‘Don’t retire, kid,’” said Alison Overholt, ESPN’s vice president of storytelling and special projects. “He was our spokesperson and working to continue it through the next phase of that campaign when the crash happened. As part of that, he stepped up to be the spokesperson and write the foreword for the very first book in the series of children’s books with NatGeo Kids.” 

This book marks the first collaboration between ESPN and National Geographic. It also marks the first foray into sports books by National Geographic’s kids’ books division.

The series applies the STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to sports. The first book is about basketball, and the second will be on soccer. “We also have a baseball and football edition in the works,” Overholt said.

The basketball book looks into the geometry of making a shot and considers the degree where a foot should be pointing to make a pivot.

Written by James Buckley, the 128-page book retails for $14.99.

AD SPOTS PAY OFF FOR FOX: The Chiefs’ Travis Kelce had just caught a 1-yard pass in the Super Bowl’s fourth quarter and Harrison Butker added the extra point to cut the 49ers’ lead to three. With 6:13 left in the game, Fox was not scheduled to go to a commercial break. But it went to one anyway, featuring two 60-second commercials — one from Microsoft, the other from Chrysler.

The break wasn’t planned, and Fox sold the spots after the network announced before Thanksgiving that the game was sold out.

The break was especially valuable in a Super Bowl where Fox sold commercials at a record-high rate of $5.6 million for 30 seconds. While most Super Bowl advertisers want to make a splash soon after kickoff, Fox’s biggest audience tuned in during the fourth quarter.

The NFL gave Fox the OK earlier in January to sell one “floating break” that it would run during an unforeseen break in the game, like after Kelce’s touchdown. Microsoft is an official NFL sponsor; Chrysler has been a heavy buyer of ad time throughout the season. Neither company had another ad in Sunday’s game.

During its sales process, Fox used a strategy to reduce the number of commercial breaks from five per quarter to four, while keeping the number of total advertisers the same. Even with the floating break, the Super Bowl had fewer breaks this year (17) than last (20).

Overall, the game featured 85 national ads (60 national spots and 25 Fox promos) from 55 advertisers, according to research from iSpot.