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Man in the Arena – Distribution Strategy at its Finest.


Who cares?

Especially professional sports, right?

What do we care – unless, we’ve put money on the game, the performance with fantasy sports, or even jawwing back and forth where your mouth has gotten your pocketbook or digital wallet into some trouble. (looking at you, Charles Barkley)

Reportedly, Charles Barkley bet $100k on himself to finish near the top of a Golf Tourney.He ended up second to last. 

Ok – admittingly, I’m a bit of sports dork. I grew up memorizing stats from the media guide when my oldest brother was a part of the famed Wrecking Crew defense at Texas A&M, and my next oldest followed him there as a QB. Sure, I wanted to follow in their footsteps and play college ball (UNL, 2001-02 etc) but more importantly I had some skin in the game to give me a reason to care. 

Barstool Sports continues to permeate various elements of sports interest, especially with the passing of NIL for amateur athletes, but that started as a more independent blog (read more here) for betting analysis and now have raving stoolies all over the world. In my opinion, the format and distribution of content and the changes associated to give people the reason to “give a s$*t” have changed so much, it’s worth diving into a bit more. This decentralized approach to distribution has been readily adopted as a viable strategy for most traditional media silos, as studies have shown podcast listeners listen to approx 54% of independently produced content.

Let’s look at the roll out of a highly anticipated Man in the Arena special produced by ROS, taking a deeper look at Tom Brady’s ascension to untouchable status with 10 Super Bowl appearances and 7 titles. In May 2021, ESPN released they would be co-producing an in-depth look at Tom Brady’s story and sharing very personal details about the Super Bowl championships after the late Day 2 NFL draft pick was slighted at the start of his career and has seemingly cheated time to still compete and win championships.

Timeline (Marketing, PR, and Business Dev working in tandem)

  • May 2021 – Press Releases to announce the mini-series (multi-pronged, multi-channel announcement – with text overlay still images to accompany ESPN+ series, podcast and social content
    • Analysts provided the opp to measure the impact of announcement, engagement, interest and subsequent Non-ESPN+ users engaged with content
  • June/July 2021 – Reactions, engagement with content drive creation of storylines as well as interest in backstory (gave time for teammates, stakeholders, and fans to curate and provide context and interest for new media creation)
  • Aug 2021 – Organic training camp and preseason media coverage to provide multiple impressions and promotion to drive more adoption of the series being leveraged to sell ESPN+ memberships, as well as retargeting campaigns for merch/digital sales
  • Sept 2021Brady kicking a hornet’s nest to continue the guerrilla tactics associated with a project put together on the fly

Pic including him talking about the series in a podcast he hosts, as well as the reporting done by ESPN that failed to include a measured link for those engaged with the story (NY Post, Sept 15. 2021)
  • Oct 2021 – Series footage gets populated to podcast hosting sites (2 mins preview episode – with reviews and measurements getting attention) as well as YT/Social microcontent being shared from stakeholders, producers, and fans.
    • ESPN+ begins native platform promotion with clips and behind the scenes to promote opportunities for content consumption
  • Nov 2021 – Series, Podcast and Social Content Fully released (expected release Nov 16)

This distribution strategy helps to provide departments, fans, internal stakeholders, and decision makers the data necessary to inform how the content gets produced, shared and subsequently measured. That analysis leads to interested license holders to participate in the sponsorship and further distribution of the content giong forward – and you don’t need to have an ESPN, or a professional sports legend prompting the content to garner a return for your business.

ESPN+ promoting the behind the scenes look (Nov 4, 2021) for series set for Nov 16, 2021 release

Time will tell – but, when it comes to answering the question of Who Cares, there’s certainly more than NFL viewers interested in this series, and a more independently distributed strategy to a larger corporate media org that will certainly net out some fascinating results. Check back here or over at Knucklehead Podcast, on Spotify, Apple or Google Podcasts for more analysis later this November.

Sources cited

B/R –

Social Media

Link to ROS Produced Podcasts –

Social Media

Link to podcast –

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