ESPN and ABC Sports Woo Clients With ROO

Mar 21, 2005  •  Post A Comment

ESPN and ABC Sports have a simple message for this year’s upfront: Sports is big, big numbers, big impact, big passion and most important, big return on objective.

In fact, that concept of return on objective, or ROO, will be the linchpin of the message that ESPN and ABC Sports deliver to advertisers and agencies during upfront pitches.

ROO is the new buzzword in the advertising business. Along with ESPN and ABC Sports, Turner Networks and media agency Starcom will be chattering about the concept in the upfront.

ROO is a relatively new way to measure the impact of an advertising campaign that is based, as the name implies, on the client’s specific objectives. It is different from the more traditional return on investment, a hard number arrived at by analyzing cost and efficiency of a buy. ROO is based on goals such as improving brand awareness, getting 100,000 people to enter a promotion or driving viewers to visit an auto dealer to test-drive a car.

ROO is measurable, too, said Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN ABC Sports customer marketing and sales. The sales organization plans to offer an assortment of tools to help advertisers quantify whether their campaigns on ESPN and ABC Sports met their goals.

“We are going to be aggressive about return on objective,” he said. “We want clients to say, ‘Let’s create some ROO to engage in.'”

Once the client and the network agree on the overarching goals for the campaign, a number of research tools come into play. They include sports polls, Internet measurement, focus groups, customized research and data from measurement companies such as Joyce Julius and Nielsen Sports to assess the impact of sponsorship in sports.

Through the ESPN Sports Poll, the network surveys 2,000 adults every week. The poll often includes questions on specific advertisers, brand awareness and intention to buy. Mr. Erhardt said ESPN has used the sports poll to measure ROO in the past but plans to significantly ramp up its use this year.

Customized Research

ESPN and ABC Sports also conduct more than 50 focus groups each year and develop their own customized research. Mr. Erhardt said the network will add brand-oriented questions based on specific needs of clients to the focus groups as part of its intensified focus on ROO.

ESPN inked a deal this month to license Nielsen Sports’ new Web-based Sponsorship Scorecard service, which verifies and quantifies sponsored media in televised sports, essentially measuring the return on on-air sports sponsorships . It’ll now go into the ROO toolbox.

ESPN and ABC Sports also work with Joyce Julius to measure product placement and brand mentions. Joyce Julius analyzes frame by frame how long a sponsor is on-air and whether the sponsor’s name is clear and in focus, then adds up the number and quality of mentions that a brand captures, said Eric Wright, VP of research and development with Joyce Julius. The company then compares the impact from the sponsorship with traditional advertising.

ESPN has used Joyce Julius for college football advertisers because the season is long and the sponsorships run across multiple media. “Now everybody wants more out of a sponsorship,” Mr. Wright said.

Mr. Erhardt said many advertisers already use their own tools to measure whether objectives were met. What ESPN and ABC Sports hope to do is open that dialogue further and spread out all the tools on the table so the two sides can jointly measure ROO. ESPN and ABC Sports will then customize a package of tools for an advertiser based on the client’s interests and needs, Mr. Erhardt said.

The idea to formalize ROO came in part from the success ESPN had last year with a Capital One sponsorship in which 850,000 people voted online for the best college mascot, a response that exceeded Capital One’s expectations, Mr. Erhardt said. That’s the sort of information ESPN plans to report back to a client in analyzing ROO going forward.

ROO has become more important in today’s media world, where consumers have more control and can access content in many more places beyond the tentpoles of TV, radio and print, said Steven Feuling, chief marketing officer for Starcom. He said Starcom is increasingly turning to the notion of ROO with its clients.

“We sit down with our partners and get a read on what they are trying to do with the initiatives they are putting in place, then say, ‘How can we measure? How can we prove we delivered what you wanted this initiative to deliver?'” he said.

Additional ways to measure ROO include econometric modeling, case studies and tracking behavior through TiVo, Mr. Feuling said.

“ROO brings together the quantitative and the qualitative attributes,” he said. “Nielsen ratings play an important role in our industry. What you are starting to see is there are other tools that are rising up.”

Chris Pizzurro, VP of multimedia marketing at Turner Broadcasting, said Turner plans to incorporate the concept of ROO into the upfront. ROO works particularly well for new media platforms such as VOD and broadband, because measurement in those areas is still being figured out, he said.