Sponsored vignettes during MediaSport telecasts: A case of the 2007 and 2008 National Basketball Association (NBA) finals.

This is a copy of the abstract I submitted to SMAANZ 2011 and will present the findings on Friday 25 November 2011 at 8:30 AM at the MCG in Melbourne.

Olan Kees Martin Scott a, Dwight Zakus, Brad Hill b, Heather A. Muir c, & Sue Brown a

a University of Ballarat, b Griffith University, c Bowling Green State University

Advertisers suggest that the general public views over 3,000 brand names and logos per day. From the brand name on an alarm clock to the many logos on a car, society is exposed to many marketing messages on a daily basis. How, then, does a television network attempt to ensure that broadcast sponsors’ names and logos are seen by viewers? Often, a television network will embed marketing messages into the live coverage of the event, which has been found to be a successful method of marketing to a captive audience (Wenner, 1989). For example, companies may sponsor segments of a telecast, such as the halftime show or the “players to watch” element. This study uncovered how one television network, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), embedded marketing messages into the play-by-play commentary of two end-of-season series, the 2007 and 2008 National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals.

According to Condry (1989), the business of a television broadcaster is not the selling of advertisements, programmes, or goods and services, but the selling of audiences: “people in very large numbers who have little else in common except that they are all ‘tuned’ in at the same time” (p. 23). This has led television organisations to move away from viewing their audience as reactive individuals “who passively watch one game[or show]after another, doing little but ingesting food along the way” (Gantz & Wenner, 1995, p. 70) to “engaging and involving their viewers” (Livingstone, 1998). Once a viewer is attached and engaged with a programme, that individual is more likely to become, and remain, cognitively and emotionally absorbed, and continue to consume other media programming (Livingstone, 1998; Wann, Grieve, Zapalac, & Pease, 2008). Once a broadcaster is able to provide the audience with reasons for television watching, it is able to mediate the audience and sell this captive population to advertisers and sponsors. A common method for promoting third party goods and services is during the advertising breaks during MediaSport (Wenner, 1998) coverage (Abelman & Atkin, 2002). However, a newer phenomenon is the inclusion of sponsored messages during the description of the game.

According to Mullin (1983), there are three broad ways in which a broadcaster can embed marketing messages into the telecasts of sport. These are: promote third-party goods and services, promote the participation (i.e., playing) of sport, and promote the future viewing of network programmes. A content analysis was conducted on ABC’s live telecasts of the NBA Finals to uncover how the ABC commercialised its broadcasts. Two salient themes emerged. First, ABC promoted the NBA online store. Second, many segments of the Finals were sponsored. In both of these categories, third party companies were incorporated into the coverage of the Finals. Examples of the ways in which sponsors were incorporated into the coverage of the NBA Finals will be presented at the conference.

Implications of this study include an increased valuation of advertising and sponsorship due to the announcers’ comments and the use of sponsored vignettes. Since these marketing messages occur during the event, rather than during advertising breaks, this may lead to greater audience viewership of the vignettes. Second, through the use of sponsored vignettes, advertisers are able to market to a captive audience (Wenner, 1989), as more viewers will watch these segments that are aired as part of the live coverage.

Stream: Sport and media

Keywords: sport media, advertising, sponsored vignettes, framing, and basketball