ESPN goes from introducing “change” to becoming the best brand in television

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

20 September 2010

ESPN goes from introducing “change” to becoming the best brand in television

I am asked to speak at various conventions and conferences as well in front of many company audiences and, often, the subject is about change. How you adapt to it and, more importantly, how you must embrace it and even seek it out.

I thought about “change” again when considering how potent the ESPN brand has become. A new set of ESPN spots, which establish the network as being deeply embedded in the sports world, were broadcast recently.

The new round is a step up, featuring the “craziness” of sports fans, something that is instantly recognizable in this world of fantasy sports (which I’ve never quite understood) and has a bit of the “There, but for the grace of God, go I” feel to it. That’s a brand: A reflection, even a funny one, of the target audience.

Screen-shot-2010-09-20-at-12.29.27-PMEmbracing change is a scary proposition for many, but it’s only in change that innovations and market leaders emerge. How silly did we all think ESPN was when it showed kindergarten bowling or hopscotch in its infancy? The idea of a 24-hour, sports network was ludicrous.

Today, ESPN is the most powerful brand in television. It has defined a category and is so associated with the meanings of that brand that its parent network, ABC, brands its sports coverage “ESPN on ABC.” Although ESPN often annoys me, it has the most loyal audience in the landscape, and it got there by introducing a change that was initially mocked.

Change is nothing to be afraid of and, in fact, those companies and brands that are afraid of it are doomed to irrelevancy. It’s not crazy. It’s business.

See more posts in the following related categories: Branding change ESPN


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