/// Al Jazeera’s Fledgling Sports Net Refines Its Ground Game

February 5, 2013  |  Media Week

In its bid to become a bona fide player in the U.S., the fledgling network beIN Sport has a lot going for it: deep pockets (thanks to the backing of Al Jazeera ), the rights to choice soccer leagues like France’s Ligue 1, and distribution via Comcast, Dish Network and DirecTV. That said, beIN’s initial reach and programming slate pale compared to giants like ESPN and NBC Sports Network . Still, the newbie is betting that smart marketing can help it compete. After a search, beIN has hired the New York office of TBWAChiatDay to create ads in the U.S. The agency’s challenge is formidable: create a brand identity in a crowded field of national sports nets that later this year also will include Fox Sport 1. It’s a tough task, but not impossible. “The difficulty is finding those audiences, then once you find them, you have to stand for something,” said Justin Barocas, a partner at marketing communications firm Anomaly, who has worked on both ESPN and NBCSN. “You have to be able to build a programming schedule and content…that serves those audiences in the most appropriate way while having your own singular voice because that’s what’s going to stand out. It’s not just, ‘We have this matchup on this Saturday.’ It’s more about, ‘Here’s what we believe in; here’s what we stand for.’” In other words, if ESPN is the ultimate home for sports fans and NBCSN is about the humanity of sports, what is beIN’s distinction? Beyond that core branding challenge, beIN also has a significant disadvantage in reach.

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Al Jazeera’s Fledgling Sports Net Refines Its Ground Game

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