Behind The ScenesESPN

How IU’s shot became WatchESPN ad — and Kentucky’s motivation

It was certainly a defining moment in live sports. Down by two points with a fraction of a second on the clock, Indiana’s Christian Watford launched one of the most iconic shots this men’s college basketball season to defeat the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats.

It’s the kind of moment fans won’t forget — or can’t forget, in Kentucky’s case.

In January, ESPN’s Mobile and Broadband Marketing team decided to use the moment to develop more consumer awareness of the WatchESPN service. The Transformation spot illustrates the ease of using multiple platforms to access live sports so you never miss an important moment — including Indiana’s unpredictable victory.

“I want to thank ESPN,” John Calipari said on Sunday after his 30-1 Wildcats defeated Florida.

“They’ve done one of the greatest services for my program by having that advertisement that keeps showing Indiana beating us. Every time my team watches ESPN, they see it. They just shake their heads. It makes them mad. Thank you, ESPN.”

Indiana head coach Tom Crean has a bit of a different reaction each time he sees the ad. Crean tweeted on Sunday: “You know what’s so great about the ad on ESPN that shows us beating Kentucky? Christian’s shot goes in EVERYTIME!”

Perspective, it seems, has everything to do with how the spot affects its viewers.

Alex Mccarthy, sports editor for Indiana University’s student newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student said: “Multiple people I know have actually mentioned the commercial to me and said it never gets old. When many IU fans see that clip, I think they still hold their breath until Watford makes that shot.”

The extra buzz is a welcome development, says ESPN’s Adriana Rizzo, Senior Director, Mobile Marketing and Broadband, who sat down with Front Row to explain how Transformation came together.

FR: How did you select this particular moment to highlight in the ad?
At the time when we were developing the spot, this stood out as a critical moment in the current season. It was something everyone was going to remember. It was the first time Kentucky had lost and they lost in such a dramatic fashion. As sports fans, we love the drama of a close game decided at the buzzer — it reminds us of how critical it is to watch sports live, in the moment. If you miss just a few seconds, you might miss something important including this iconic moment.

FR: How did the concept for this ad come together?
We wanted to develop a spot that would help fans to better understand the product in a visual way — simply, what you see on television is equally available to you on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. WatchESPN is an essential service for the avid sports fan. In the spot, you follow the clip from one device to the next as the game continues until its dramatic conclusion.

FR: What’s your reaction to the recent buzz about the ad?
I think it shows how important sports are to people. If a spot can get this kind of reaction, it just emphasizes how important the games are and why it’s so imperative to watch live. When you put a campaign out there, you hope it resonates with fans and has an impact.

WatchESPN is available on PCs, smartphones and tablets to fans who receive ESPN’s networks as part of their video subscription from Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks or Verizon FiOS TV. Comcast customers will have access to WatchESPN beginning in the Spring of 2012.

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