ESPN Rap Tell Fans It’s All About the App

(Image credit: ESPN)

During the American Music Awards Sunday on ABC, a commercial for ESPN lays down a rap about how you can tap to get almost anything about sports on its re-designed app.

In the One App, One Tap spot, rising vocalist Chika lets viewers know about all of the digital goodies viewers can access, including live games, highlights and commentary from ESPN’s personalities, long-form content including 30 for 30 documentaries and the ESPN Plus streaming service.

ESPN has been putting its marketing muscle behind ESPN Plus as the Walt Disney Co. emphasizes its direct-to-consumer streaming businesses. In its third-quarter earnings report, Disney said that ESPN Plus has grown to 10.3 million subscribers from 3.5 million a year ago.

Now, the company wants to push its app. “This year there have been a lot of distractions for sports fans, from the pandemic to the election, but one thing really stayed true for our business, which was the leadership of our digital properties,” said Seth Ader, VP, brand marketing at ESPN.

According to Comscore, through October, ESPN has been the No. 1 sports network for 32 straight months. It peaked in January with 117 million units users. September was ESPN’s best streaming month, with time spot viewing up 15% year over year per Adobe analytics.

With people stuck indoors because of the weather and the virus, and football taking center stage, “we felt like it was due time to reassert that leadership and give some people who may not have been on the app recently something to think about because the app has been redesigned and has a fresh new look,” Ader said.

Adrian Wojnarowski

Adrian Wojnarowki drops a Woj bomb. (Image credit: ESPN)

The app functions as the gateway to a firehose of ESPN content, and using a rap seemed like a good way to pack a lot of information lyrically into verses for the campaign. Ad agency BSSP wrote a script and put together a short list of artists to perform it.

“Chika was at the top of the list,” Ader said. “We watched a few of her YouTube videos and her Tiny Desk Concert for NPR. We just love the fact that she was young, female and her talent and skill was off the charts. She totally got it from the first minute.”

She cut a demo for the spot. “The rest is history. She was sort of like a one-take wonder. She did a great job for us,” he said. “It just catches your ear and you look up.”

At a time when it’s tough to produce commercials in a safe way, ESPN was fortunate to have plenty of clips from games, documentaries and its on air talent to splice into the spot.

The 60 second version shows highlights of QBs Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson, Damian Lillard of the NBA, 30 for 30 subjects Bruce Lee and the Fab Five, baseball star Fenando Tatis Jr., ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Scott Van Pelt and Adrian Wojnarowski, and is punctuated by Steven A. Smith declaring “it’s a fact."

"The ESPN app is the No. 1 sports app in the world, so we wanted to reintroduce our app to the masses and let fans everywhere rediscover just how deep it will take you into the world of sports,” said Sinan Dagli, group creative director at BSSP. “We love the energy of the piece – it’s a jolt of adrenaline for the brand, and captures the excitement and spontaneity we’re all chasing after.”

Launching during the high-profile American Music Awards wasn't in the campaign's original plans, but it turned out to be a happy accident that the campaign was ready to roll just as sister network ABC was set to air the American Music Awards, Ader said. “Chika's is a rising star and that show is a great place to launch the spot,” 

After its debut on the AMAs, the spots will run across ESPN platform, including Monday Night Football, college football and college basketball, as well as studio shows. It will also run off-channel across digital social and streaming audio platforms.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.