Lobbyists, interests groups, and corporations are attempting to influence President Barack Obama by purchasing commercials on ESPN, the 24-hour sports channel Obama reportedly watches religiously.
In a Politico report, media strategists said “they offer up the all-sports network as an option to clients who want to get their issues in front of Obama and top White House officials, known as big sports fans and rabid ESPN watchers.”
One strategist said the tactic is “talked about a lot.”
“It’s not just targeting Obama, but doing it in a way that is both interesting and will get the attention of the audience, but not so unusual that it will put the client in a bad position,” the strategist said.
According to the report, Microsoft used this strategy last year when it attacked Google with ads on Monday Night Football on ESPN. Microsoft’s “Scroogled” ad campaign is still running on ESPN in Washington, D.C.
ESPN currently has a near monopoly on sports programming until Fox Sports 1 debuts in August. That network has the potential of drawing a fair number of viewers, especially for its live college football programming.
Media strategists noted that “ESPN is attractive to ad buyers for a number of reasons –it’s one of the last bastions of real-time TV viewing and ads can make an impression with non-ideological voters.”
Bruce Haynes, of Purple Strategies, told Politico he has recommended ESPN to clients because “the data is clear that a significant amount of elites and influencers are watching ESPN” and “there is really a high value to being on those networks because you are much more likely to get the eyeballs you want than being on some other places.”
“One of the ways that people maintain their cultural ties to their original places they are from is through sports,” Haynes said. “Sports is a cultural vehicle, I think, to maintain their ties for their home… They can’t bring the food, or their neighbors, but they can bring their sports team.”
The Obama campaign also advertised on ESPN during the 2012 cycle because “sports programming has a high concentration of non-partisan, ideological viewers.”