A Brand Hyper-Extension

Business Week shows that even a powerhouse media brand can stumble hard and be taken out of the game when it comes to brand extensions.

In its 27-year history, ESPN has pushed its brand with the ferocity of a linebacker on steroids. And mostly it has emerged with big wins. But the sports entertainment giant recently admitted to a rare failure in brand extension. Just seven months after launching its own cell phone and service on Super Bowl Sunday, ESPN abruptly announced it was scrapping its heavily hyped Mobile ESPN.
ESPN, the $5 billion-a-year jewel of Walt Disney Co. (DIS ), takes pride in knowing what sports fans like and how they want their games, highlights, and analyses served up. Yet despite investing nearly $150 million in Mobile ESPN, say industry sources, the company signed up just 30,000 subscribers, way below a possible breakeven mark of 500,000.
Signing up for Mobile ESPN required a big leap of faith. Folks had to pay up to $199 for the phone and between $65 and $225 a month for premium content. Plus ESPN was asking many people to switch carriers and abandon family plans.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.