Case Study: ESPN/ABC

About ESPN Radio Network:

ESPN Radio is America’s number one sports radio network reaching over 18.5 million consumers per week on-air and online. As Director of Marketing (September 2000 to August 2007), I was fully accountable for setting the strategic marketing vision and implementing the overall brand strategy for ESPN’s 24/7 sports radio category from the ground floor. My primary functions were to evangelize the brand promise to consumers and leverage ESPN’s brand equity to radio affiliates, and the advertising and sports sponsorship communities.

The Challenge:

ESPN and ABC Radio Networks reached a partnership agreement to launch ESPN Radio Network as a fully-branded, 24/7 network. ESPN would provide the programming and ABC Radio would provide the sales and marketing efforts to consumers, advertisers and radio stations across the US. While the ESPN brand overall had massive equity, the ESPN Radio brand was relatively new. It was not uncommon to hear, "I didn't know ESPN was on the radio." ESPN Radio had primarily produced weekend "filler" shows, but did possess rights to broadcast MLB and NBA games. The decision to go 24/7 nationwide presented the unique challenge of building the affiliate base, advertising revenue and audience simultaneously.

Additionally, each individual property, day-part show and seasonal programming were to be marketed individually as well as the network as a whole. Weekday shows like Dan Patrick, Mike and Mike in the Morning and Tony Kornheiser , plus College GameDay, NFL Pregame, Major League Baseball and the NBA all had to be supported across all three targets while also building the larger radio brand. So... game on.

The Solution:

Developed and implemented strategic marketing and communications plans designed to increase awareness of the ESPN “Radio” brand, increase audience reach and generate incremental revenue. Increased ad sales revenue by supporting national sales through development of sponsored marketing events (Super Bowl, College GameDay and the MLB All-Star Game), sales presentation production, presented sales opportunities to selected major clients (USAF, Radio Shack, Red Lobster), placed ESPN Radio top of mind in the national advertising community through trade print and internet advertising, PR campaigns and promotional programs. Additionally, leveraged major national broadcasts from high-profile events to deliver integrated sponsorship opportunities to advertisers with on site branding and product placements, online sponsorship of live streams and on air spots and mentions. This integrated approach was a new concept at the time and is now standard practice for local and national radio.

Drove consumer awareness/listenership through extensive branding on ESPN's Television Networks, as well as through national print advertising, media/PR campaigns and compelling national promotions. Worked within the Disney synergistic system to negotiate $25 million in media across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, ESPN Classic, ABC Sports and Negotiated the placement of ESPN Radio 30-second television spots as trailers on Walt Disney’s sports-related video/DVD releases such as The Rookie. Managed the production of television commercials featuring ESPN talent for media placement.

Supported affiliation efforts that drove a dramatic increase in full-time stations through extensive trade print and online advertising and outbound campaigns using email, tradeshow sponsorships and incentive trips to national sporting events. And I was responsible for the production of and day-to-day operation of two online B2B websites (now shuttered), and

Part of team that successfully re-launched with new features, an on-line store, greater streaming capabilities and a more sponsor-friendly flow. Today, ESPN Radio has merged with and is one of the most highly-consumed sports content providers in the U.S., logging as many as 250,000 online listeners per month, also producing more than 35 original podcasts each week accounting for more than four million downloads per month to portable digital devices.

The Outcomes:

This comprehensive marketing strategy achieved all desired objectives in all three areas of the challenge... we grew the audience, we drove advertising revenue and we increased our market size through branded full-time affiliate stations. My marketing strategy was in no way 100% responsible for the tremendous growth of ESPN Radio, but it played a major role in helping all of the internal stakeholders deliver on their KPI's and provide tremendous value in all three areas. Here are some selected results:

1. Marketing and PR efforts helped drive 100% YoY revenue growth each year.

2. Helped increase listenership from three million to 18.5 million weekly listeners through extensive branding on ESPN's Cable Networks, national print and digital advertising, media/PR campaigns and compelling online promotions.

3. Supported affiliation efforts that drove an increase from 62 to 410 full-time stations.

4. At the time of my departure from the company, was generating $6 million in annual revenue and was the number one sports streaming site on the web.

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"Patrick Ferguson distinguished himself as a marketing/communications strategist while working on the ESPN Radio brand. His marketing efforts included developing strategies to reach consumers, advertisers and affiliates. He was on the ground floor of creating and implementing current consumer/sales franchises such as GameDay, supporting the grassroots marketing efforts of top advertisers like The Home Depot. At the core of his success, was his ability to align marketing and PR strategies to deliver one-voice, annually creating millions of dollars of earned-media for ESPN Radio. Patrick also excelled in his digital expertise. He was the lead strategist in building and populating a business-to-business sales website to service the ad community.

Although his core responsibility was ESPN, he really showed his leadership and marketing expertise when helping team members with their marketing challenges on other brands. I would highly recommend Patrick for a senior-level marketing position for any organization because of his experience in managing large scales budgets, his ability to design and implement strategy, and his effectiveness in influencing both his peers and senior management."
Omar T.
Senior VP Marketing, CMO