As we have for a number of other soccer broadcasts this year, particularly USMNT games, we will “business blog” the ESPN broadcast of MLS Cup 2009. Before we start, a quick word about ESPN coverage leading up to the game. The ESPN Classic broadcast of MLS Cup history was outstanding and definitely worth a watch. On ESPN.com, the game got reasonable front page placement, but between the NFL and NASCAR, there wasn’t much possibility of lead story placement for the game.
Bill Simmons’ 40 minute interview on Landon Donovan for a podcast was very good, and Colin Cowherd’s interview with David Beckham was short but also good placement for an audience that is likely not typically soccer focused. On the network, there was little in the way of lead-in, and it was very disappointing to see the “bottom line” featuring La Liga scores and no reference to the upcoming game. There were some graphics indicating the game was coming up next.
As had been the case throughout the playoffs, the broadcast opened with a pre-game presented by VW and a strong visual introduction. The first round of commercials came from VW, adidas, Gatorade, Best Buy and then a series of local sports. After the break, ESPN showed its AXIS technology and its hotzone graphic that showed average speed, distance and location of a player’s movement (very neat). The network did a good job showing the player and Cup entry into the game. The second round of spots featured Budweiser, Pepsi Max, the Marines, MLS W.O.R.K.s and then local spots. Kickoff crowd looked good, although there seemed to be some Seattle fans that didn’t make the trip.
As usual, the booth was staffed by Harkes and Dellacamera. VW was the first screen sponsor and typical MLS sponsors (AA, VW, AT&T and othera) were apparent on the signage. Pepsi was also a screen sponsor and Allen Hopkins apeared for the first time in the tenth minute. Crowd mics seemed limited, as the noise was not overly present on the television. Other screen sponsors include Axe, Gatorade
The hot zone finally emerged in the 33 minute and the offiside line soon thereafter. Also, Hopkins and Stone did a good job providing insight from the benches with regard to tactics and injury.
Axe sponsored the halftime report. Commercials at the half game from Gatorade, adidas (that commercial is getting tiresome), ABC (for Scrubs, my favorite show) and then local ads. Strange choice to lead with Keller rather than game analysis, Seattle shouldn’t have been the story, the game should have been. After the interview, Axe had the first spot, followed by Pepsi Max, the Marines, FIFA Soccer and others. The hot zone was again used at the half and it was again intersesting, as was the ESPN axis.
We will stop here and post any business notes from the second half as they arise.