When was the last time you felt normal?
We’re all humans and we all crave routine. This time last month, routines around the world came to a screeching halt. Our children are adjusting to teacher mom and dad, while we all continue to search for a new normal while ensuring kids feel safe and never sense our fear.
Throughout the COVID-19 hysteria, one company has been a shining example of adaptation and an ability to provide consumers with a sense of calm in an otherwise chaotic reality.
Yes, the worldwide leader in sports, as they like to proclaim, has arguably become a worldwide leader of consistency and a model for success.
Think about this for a moment: even if you are not a sports fan, you’ve likely watched more than one Super Bowl in your life, which means you probably (definitely) know who Tom Brady is.
Did you know that for the first time in his 20+ year career Brady became a free agent last month?
Sport, unlike anything else in America, brings us together. It’s a conversation starter. An escape from reality. A connector. So, on March 12, 2020, when the NBA announced it was postponing the rest of their season and seemingly every other major sports league on earth followed suit, what were we supposed to do? More importantly, what were sports reporters, teams, athletes and organizations going to do?
ESPN provided us the blueprint.
They kept things as normal as possible by sticking to the programming viewers have come to depend. Like every network, ESPN too has their morning shows: Get Up and First Take. They still air at 8 a.m. ET and 10 a.m. ET, respectively. The personalities viewers have come to love are still there, albeit from the comfort of their own homes in most circumstances. They’ve created packages of old content to keep us entertained and engaged and by doing so have given us a small piece of normal we so desperately crave.
In 2018 ESPN spent nearly a billion dollars on a five-year broadcasting rights deal with UFC, the newest flagship tenant to their already impressive roster. On March 21 ESPN aired 11 straight hours of UFC content.
Mixed Martial Arts is still so new to the American sports landscape that even the most hardcore sports lover may not have been exposed to its artistry. ESPN went through the UFC’s 27-year history and aired only their best fights. They delivered a superior product while showcasing their newest investment, which will certainly create a bigger demand and higher ratings when live UFC events resume.
ESPN has shared the feel-good stories of Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry donating one million meals to students in need and New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson pledging to pay arena and event staff employees their salaries for a month. They’ve reminded us of the dominance the New York Yankees exhibited over the rest of baseball in the 1990s and they’ve explored every NFL free agent signing this offseason with outstanding depth and knowledge.
For those of us craving March Madness, they put together a comprehensive bracket style tournament pitting the best college basketball players, regardless of gender, spanning decades to determine the best collegiate basketball player in history. The results may have been flawed, as the ever popular male 18-25 demographic isn’t old enough to know that Lew Alcindor, the number one seed in the west region, is more commonly known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and holds a record as a three-time NCAA tournament MVP. It provided content, discussion points and a unique form of analysis, giving basketball fans everywhere something to be excited about. Ultimately, Michael Jordan won the tournament, again proving that people were clearly weighing each athlete’s NBA accolades as heavily, if not more so, than their NCAA achievements. But nonetheless, it was a great distraction in a time where we all need one.
When the world returns to normal – and it will, even if Tom Brady is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer – ESPN will have a leg up on their competition by doing exactly what they’ve always done. They have been our normal when nothing else is.