While I realize that many of our readers are not sports fans (your reactions to some of my sports themed posts in the past are a clear giveaway on that front) I feel it is important to share with you that ESPN is joining the social gaming fray.
Why is it important? As far as brands go, ESPN is one of the strongest ones on the planet. You don’t have to watch SportsCenter to know what ESPN does. It’s just one of those that things that can either make people react with excitement or a full roll of the eyes. Either way, ESPN is a business and everyone knows about it.
So why would a brand that is cemented in the American psyche turn to producing games for social networks like Facebook and others? I suspect it’s because they are smart. Mashable reports
The sports brand has inked a two-year deal with social gaming company Playdom to build the games, the first two of which should launch in Fall 2010. Other platforms for the games will include Bebo, Hi5, MySpace and Tagged.
In addition to launching on social networks, mobile apps will also be available.
Raphael Poplock is ESPN Digital Media’s VP for games and revenue strategy and development. He said today in a statement, “Our deal with Playdom marks ESPN’s first major presence into the social gaming space. The sports genre for this category of games has gone virtually untapped thus far, and through this agreement, we have an opportunity to be in front of a highly engaged audience and at the forefront of what is currently the fastest growing games category out there.”
Face it. Sports nuts are, well, nuts. They eat, drink and poop this stuff so why not take that to the next level and get them even more involved? Sports games on Facebook pretty much ensures that there will be no real exercise happening for the sports themed couch potato. Now ESPN can have mindshare not only on TV, radio and print but in social media as well. Of course, convincing these folks that they actually are athletes by playing a game online is enough to make an advertiser giddy with promotional ideas.
Personally, I am not a big game person. That’s just me. But one thing I will say is that if these sports games are any good at all I will be in there trying them out because it’s something that interests me. I still don’t get the idea of virtual farming being a good use of time but considering the money it is generating I just have to say more power to ya, Zynga! When you find a way to tap into someone’s real passions you have a social winner. Sports people are passionate. You see where this is going?
For marketers this is a clear signal that you should not be resting on your branding laurels. ESPN really doesn’t need to do anything else to lock down its brand. That has been done over the past 30 years. They are savvy enough, however, to make sure they are getting involved in where the foreseeable future is for all brands in the social networking world we now live in.
The point is that all brands regardless of your recognition or lack of it need to be growing and moving in the rapidly changing online landscape. Even ESPN is susceptible to letting a competitor in if they simply choose to not get involved because they are ‘set’ as a brand. Ask the newspaper industry how that attitude has served them.