3 Key Marketing Lessons From ESPN And Nate Silver

Nate silver goes to espnYouTubeNate Silver

You’ve brought on a talented new employee to lead an exciting new division of your company. That division is going to be a big deal. It’s going to change the way your company is perceived. And, ideally, it’s going to make you a lot of money. Now you just need to find a way to market it.

A real-time primer was available to anybody who tuned to ESPN for the 2014 World Cup draw recently. For those of you who aren’t soccer aficionados, the drawing determined which teams will play which next summer in Brazil. For ESPN, it also served as an opportunity to showcase the forthcoming work of Nate Silver, who served as an analyst on their telecast.

Silver, the statistical wiz and data journalist who has gained national recognition for his highly accurate election forecasts, left the New York Times for ESPN over the summer. His FiveThirtyEight website will relaunch in early 2014 as a standalone brand under the ESPN umbrella, and will specialize in data analysis in fields as wide as sports, politics, economics, weather, and more.

Silver’s analysis during the drawing served at least as much as promotion for FiveThirtyEight as it did to add to the discussion. Now, few businesses have their own television programming or the kind of profile that either Silver or ESPN do. All the same, the way Silver was used on the broadcast still offers key principles — for your newsletters, for your meetings with stakeholders, with any of your other marketing initiatives — for promoting new services and “intrapreneureal” employee-led projects.

1. Explain it. Silver and anchor Bob Ley’s conversation served to offer cursory explanations of the statistical terminology Silver was using. For example, Ley explained how Silver’s soccer-based statistical rating system — the Soccer Power Index — projects teams will perform. In doing so, the familiar entity (Ley and ESPN) helped to introduce the newer (Silver) to the broader audience.

2. Challenge it. But Ley also questioned some of what Silver had to say — namely, Silver’s projection that the United States has an almost equal chance of advancing to the second round of the World Cup as Portugal, an idea that on the face of it seems curious because Portugal boasts a far greater reputation in global soccer. In doing so, ESPN made it clear that Silver’s work was different from ESPN’s conventional service, while allowing Silver to show how by explaining where his projection comes from.

3. Tell everybody when they can get their hands on it. Most importantly, Ley said several times throughout the broadcast that FiveThirtyEight would go live in early 2014, so newly-initiated viewers would know where to get more. This is important for any kind of marketing, sure, but could be overlooked when flaunting a new product or service. It could be easy to get caught up in how exciting that brand new thing is going to be and forget to say when it’s going to be there.

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