Sep 16, 2009 at 08:22 PM
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Sponsorship Lessons From ESPN's Foray Into Local

ESPN is again piling on the demise of (or creating new opportunities for - depending on how you look at it) the local sports journalist - this time online with its launch of city exclusive portals. Following up on Chicago's test market site, ESPN launched ESPN Boston today and is reportedly eyeing Dallas, New York and Los Angeles next.


Some like the idea, some don't. Nevertheless, there are a few lessons that ESPN employed to create a new model around their content, which I believe properties may be wise to emulate, online or off.

1. Less is More

Rather packing the sites with the same generic ads, each city site is "presented by" one howetown sponsor, matching the hometown content. Big media's love affair with the idea of "sponsorship" (as opposed to ads) shows no sign of letting up. In Chicago, it's Hilton of Chicago. In Boston, it's the locally headquartered, Dunkin Donuts. Rather than splitting up the inventory, both of these companies own their respective local portal. Any guesses for Dallas, LA and New York?

2. Repacking Inventory to Create New Value

If you think about it, ESPN is really not building or buying many new assets to create these portals. Sure, they're acquiring some talent (such as Mike Reiss from the Globe), but the basic nuts and bolts (i.e. content) requires very few extra resources. Instead, they've found a clever new way to repackage existing assets in a way that appeals to local marketers. Are there ways you can reshuffle your existing assets to create additional value for your sponsors and/or sell new ones?

3. Partnering with Peers

In the past, we've talked about ways to partner with peer properties to put a new twist on your value proposition. ESPN doesn't want to get into tickets or generic local news so they've smartly tied into the core competencies of complimentary services like Stubhub and the Huffington Post. How can you partner with peer properties in your local market to create value for your fans, sponsors and own organization.

Those are our takeaways. Feel free to list your own in comments. When the "worldwide leader" makes a move, we're all wise to pay attention.