Recently I had the opportunity to attend the 2010 ESPYs (in Los Angeles) as presented by the Disney-owned sports institution ESPN. Like most everything it does, ESPN spares little to no expense in putting on the biggest show possible with events tied to its name.
Better than anyone else, ESPN has a greater understanding not just of its audience, but its audience expectations. ESPN takes its brand and its reputation deadly seriously.
While it is easy to get up for the big events such as the ESPYs or the ESPN created X Games, however, ESPN is at the top of its game and has steadily turned back all competitors because it plays everything up big, just like its audience has come to expect.
But this goes beyond ESPN’s intimate knowledge of its audience; ESPN remains consistent in its success because of the passion and energy its employees bring to the network. The ESPN talent doesn’t just talk shop like everyone else, it is like sitting in on peace negotiations. These people are intense! The little hoop shoot machine in the EPSN Zone outside of the Nokia Theater was getting worked like it was being attacked by teen boys shot up high as a kite on Mountain Dew … it was actually suit wearing ESPN execs.
The bigger question here is: how many other media organizations, regardless of size, make culture an integral part of their strategic planning and hiring practices? How many of their employees are clock watchers, devoid the passion for their career, their profession, that they possessed when they were just starting out? How many employees take to heart the significance of the company brand, the history, the future? How many employees do you have in-house that has the desire to “wow” the audience every time out without asking how this might affect the paycheck?
No, ESPN doesn’t do everything perfect, they don’t always make the best decisions, they don’t hit a home run with every swing, but because of its employees and its culture, it just seems like they do.