- ESPN is deploying a new sponsorship model for its upcoming docuseries "The Last Dance," which chronicles NBA star Michael Jordan's legendary championship streak on the Chicago Bulls, per details shared with Marketing Dive.
- Facebook, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and State Farm are presenting sponsors for the 10-part series that premieres on April 19, and each brand is working on a tailored integration. Facebook will focus on a "Trivia" segment around the Bulls' '90s basketball dynasty, State Farm will support "The Vault" content centered on vintage ESPN footage and Reese's will sponsor a "Remember When" portion that recalls stories from the championship teams.
- As part of the Facebook tie-up, ESPN will run pre- and post-show livestreams exclusively on Facebook and Instagram. The network's in-house agency ESPN CreativeWorks also partnered with State Farm to cut a custom ad that repurposes a "SportsCenter" broadcast by anchor Kenny Mayne from 1998. The spot is currently running across ESPN's linear platforms and as a 6-second cut on Snapchat.
ESPN is adopting a three-pronged approach to promote its highly anticipated new docuseries around Michael Jordan, leveraging a mix of mobile and livestreaming channels that are seeing surging engagement among consumers who are sheltering in place due to the coronavirus. The sports broadcasting network owned by Disney is also putting a heavy focus on content integrations with its three lead sponsors.
Before "The Last Dance" airs each Sunday, ESPN will run a 30-minute stream exclusive to Instagram Live via its SportsCenter account. Similarly, the network will host a Facebook Live post-show analysis with broadcasters Cassidy Hubbarth and Sarah Spain. State Farm is also sponsoring the live, digital-only "Jalen & Jacoby: The After Show," which will appear across ESPN's social media channels and the ESPN app. The program offers post-episode analysis, including discussions with "The Last Dance" director Jason Hehir.
ESPN tapping its advertising partners to round out a broad content play around "The Last Dance" comes as the network scrambles to pivot its programming and marketing strategy in the wake of mass live sports cancellations and postponements due to the coronavirus. The network needs to fill out its broadcast slate, and has recently ramped up re-airing old games and resurrected "The Ocho," a joke concept around oddball sporting events that first appeared in the movie "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," as reported in The Wall Street Journal.
"The Last Dance" was originally set to debut in June, but was bumped up to April. The series will run through May 17 in the U.S. and eventually be available to stream on Netflix for international audiences.
As marketers feel growing pressure to be agile in volatile times, ESPN is leaning into its internal agency CreativeWorks to support marketing for "The Last Dance." The custom ad with State Farm appears to use a form of deepfake technology that alters Kenny Mayne's mouth movements so that the "SportsCenter" anchor accurately predicts ESPN will air a Michael Jordan series in 2020. The spot uses footage that originally aired during a 1998 broadcast around the Bulls' then-recent championship win. Many brands are repurposing archival footage for their pandemic marketing as producing new creative assets grows increasingly difficult under lockdown.