7 Reasons ESPN’s ESPY Awards are Terrific Content Marketing

Photo: ESPN Facebook.

Photo: ESPN Facebook.

When ESPN started awarding ESPYS in 1993, nobody was talking about content marketing.

As I watched The 2013 ESPYS last week, it occurred to me that this annual event is an excellent example of content marketing.

There are many definitions of content marketing.  Here’s a good one from the Content Marketing Institute:

Content Marketing is owning, as opposed to renting media. It’s a marketing process to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating content in order to change or enhance a consumer behavior.

If you’re not familiar with The ESPYS, think Oscars, Tonys and Emmys for the sports world, in a bit more playful manner:

“The ESPYS gather top celebrities from sports and entertainment to commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major sports achievements, reliving unforgettable moments and saluting the leading performers and performances.” (ESPN)

In a recent presentation to the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG), content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi stated that the biggest challenge facing content marketing is “producing enough content” and “producing the kind of content that engages.”  ESPN nails it completely with The ESPYS.

Here are seven reasons why The ESPYS are a terrific content marketing vehicle:

  1. It’s a made-up, yet relevant event that celebrates the sports industry and targets both casual and intense ESPN fans.
  2. The ESPYS reinforce the ESPN brand by being consistent to what the brand is and providing added-value engagement to the brand’s followers.
  3. The ESPYS become a brand platform and create buzz, excitement and reinforce brand relevance.
  4. It’s packaged in a cool, hip and fun format, and at the same time includes a powerful dosage of poignant profiles (Arthur Ashe Courage Award and Jimmy V Award for Perseverance).
  5. The show is for the fans, so the fans vote for the award winners.
  6. There’s social media integration, including live Twitter voting during the event to finalize the Best Team award.
  7. The event is carried live on the ESPN network – of course.

In addition, The ESPYS honor ESPN’s partnership with the V Foundation for Cancer Research, in place since the inaugural 1993 show, which honored the late Jim Valvano.  His powerful, poignant speech has become famous.

While there were lots of laughs during the show, for me the highlight was the Best Moment Award.

The honoree was 7-year old cancer patient Jack Hoffman, who scored a touchdown for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  His story demonstrates the transcending power of sports to make a positive difference in people’s lives.


Content marketing is all the rage now.  ESPN’s The ESPY awards are an excellent example of creating relevant content that both engages fans and reinforces the ESPN brand promise with them.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.

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