News

NBC Sports Net Kicks Off Name-Change Campaign

12/12/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Come Jan. 2, national cable sports service
Versus will become NBC Sports Network.

The plan calls for Bob Costas to sign off from NBC’s
coverage of the 2012 National Hockey League Winter
Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York
Rangers, and then “throw” to postgame coverage of the
outdoor hockey contest on NBC Sports Network.

While the
switch will flip
Jan. 2, NBC
Sports Group,
which officially
announced the
new name on
Aug. 1, has been
gradually gearing
viewers up
for the change.
Messaging about
the impending
rebranding began
running on
the network’s
ticker in early
September.
Closes on Versus’ NHL coverage and other programming
conclude with “a presentation of NBC Sports Group,” according
to John Miller, NBC Sports Group chief marketing
officer.

Miller said the network’s philosophy and attendant
promotional campaign is rooted in five basic elements:
NBC Sports Group’s “belief in storytelling,” “respect for
the sports,” having “the best seats in the house,” sporting
a “positive attitude” and its coverage having an “aspirational”
bent.

Created in-house, the first wave of the campaign,
called “Warm Up,” kicked off on NBC’s top show, Sunday
Night Football
, on Nov. 29. It’s been running on Versus
and NBC
Spor ts programming
since then.

Miller said
the plan was
to make the
brand transition “analogous to
athletes’ preparat
ion.” To
that end, five
spots were created,
featuring
Olympic gold
medal gymnast
Nastia
Liukin, a trio of Los Angeles Galaxy soccer players and bicyclist
Christian Vande Velde. There is also a pair of spots
involving NHL stars Alex Ovechkin and Ryan Miller.

From the execution of the Comcast-NBCUniversal
merger through November, Versus’ primetime average
audience has grown 10%, according to network officials,
who want that trend to continue. As the date nears, NBCU
will look to “broaden out the news to the American public.”
In a few weeks, the programmer will deploy its corporate
cross-channel prioritization strategy, with “Warm
Up” spots going into the rotation across 18 owned networks.
In markets where Comcast operates systems, the
units will run as cross-channel spots on 33 more cable
networks. That media schedule will continue into the first
week of January with the “Next Wave” group of promos.

Miller said he has been working on the strategy and rebranding
campaign for over a year, with helping hands
from Versus senior vice president of marketing Bill Bergofin, vice president of marketing Ryan Donovan and vice
president of creative services Tripp Dixon.

Since Comcast finalized the transaction for NBCU last
January, NBC Sports Group has ramped up the national
cable network’s roster of properties, concluding a 10-year
deal with the NHL, netting a multiyear pact with Major
League Soccer and airing Notre Dame football action,
college football, basketball and hockey, as well as horseracing
fare around the sport’s Triple Crown.

The service has also added weekday news and analysis
shows under the NBC Sports Talk and NFL Turning
Point
banners. NBC Sports Network also will see Emmywinner
Costas host quarterly Town Halls — the franchise
kicks off three days before NBC’s coverage of Super Bowl
XLVI — and monthly interview shows. The channel will
also present a significant amount of coverage from the
2012 London Olympics.

March