Sports networks putting on unusual stunts at upfronts to try and appeal to advertisers and media buyers is really becoming quite a thing. Much of Fox’s upfronts Monday were devoted to their sports content, including a bizarre rap track and bringing in Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer via video call to promote Michigan – Ohio State, and things got even weirder at ESPN’s upfronts Tuesday thanks to a six-minute segment featuring Kenny Mayne flying in on wires, to “O Fortuna,” dressed in an angel costume, and going on a comic monologue about the state of ESPN and advertising:
“Walking out here, some jerk said ‘Break a leg.’ It’s not really funny when you’re coming down 100 feet on what looks like fishing line. It’s a metaphor for the strength of cable, look at it that way. If I had perished, they’d still be trying to close the Brawny Paper Towels deal out front. I’d be on the bottom line somewhere.” Nicely done.
Mayne later had a nice jab at the dubious numbers we sometimes see with social media advertising. “This part of my presentation is brought to you by Skippy Peanut Butter. The peanut butter that isn’t even bad for people with peanut allergies! I totally made that up. Like social media ad view numbers, whatever those are.”
And he then tied in ESPN’s rights deals into a discussion of sex.
“These are the leagues ESPN is associated with, the leagues and the conferences. They’re not going away. Why? Because every day, a new baby is born who might one day play in one of these leagues. Babies aren’t going away. People are going to continue to have sex and lots of it. Why? Because of the seductive commercials that you run during the games that people who have sex watch on ESPN! That’s a sale. That’s how a baby is made. It’s also how we make money, and why we aren’t in the godforsaken conference room at the Skyline on 10th.”
Mayne then had some fun with the coverage of ESPN’s subscriber declines.
“Look at this chart! This clearly shows the increase in people signing up for cable subscriptions. This chart’s from 1996. It’s time we face the ugly truth together. The total number of people watching television the way they used to watch television might have declined. Minimally. Like a rounding error. But even if that trend continues, I ask you this: does anyone even buy stuff based on advertising? We’ll go along with that premise if you go along with the idea that people are still watching television. We need each other!”
The best part is the end, with Mayne saying “We’re not in hell,” then being greeted by the New Jersey Devils’ mascot, which he asks “Norby?” (A reference to ESPN executive senior vice president Norby Williamson.) The mascot then takes off Mayne’s wings as he says “We’re in this together. I’ve sold my soul to advertising. We’re all going to hell.”
Well, that’s certainly more fun to watch than Fox’s football rap. And it’s interesting to hear an ESPN figure be self-deprecating about the company this way (although that’s not uncommon here; for example, Seth Macfarlane sang a song making fun of Fox at Fox’s upfronts.) Will six minutes of monologue from Kenny Mayne as an angel convince anyone to advertise with ESPN who wouldn’t normally? Not necessarily, but it might get some more attention for his upcoming regular hosting gigs on the 11 p.m. SportsCenter. And hey, at least he wasn’t trying to rap.
[ESPN Front Row on Vimeo]