‘SportsCenter’ promotes ‘Avatar,’ Goodyear using its set

ESPN’sSportsCenter” is leveraging the set it debuted in August 2022 to produce embedded promotional sponsor messages, including for the film “Avatar: The Way of Water” and Goodyear.

“The Way of Water” is a 20th Century Studios production, which has, since 2019, been a Disney subsidiary, like ESPN.

To promote the release of the film, the broadcast included “Avatar”-themed bumps during its Dec. 15, 2022, broadcast.

One was a more traditional sponsorship announcement showcasing filmed-inspired imagery on one of the on-set video walls, shot “video on video“-style with an announcer and graphic billboard-style graphic inserted over the shot.

Later in the broadcast, meanwhile, the video wall in Studio X was featured again showcasing additional film-related footage. As the viewport moved out, the film’s logo (which notably dropped the much-maligned font Papyrus for this installment), appeared to be floating in the center of the space as the footage faded out from the studio’s video panels.

The view then shifts to a wide view of the studio, with all of its video walls showing additional film-inspired imagery. As an added touch, the studio floor and anchor desk had a ripple effect projected on their surfaces, as the entire space has been transported underwater. 

Next, a two-shot style approach to the anchor desk is shown, with the viewport zooming in on the camera center video wall before transitioning to a more traditional fullscreen trailer-style segment.

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During much of the broadcast, the “Avatar” logo was also featured in the lower right of the ticker that runs throughout the show, including during most breaks.

Later in the same broadcast, “SportsCenter” also aired a promotional spot for Goodyear Tire that also leveraged a view of the set.

What ESPN’s Studio X looks like without the ‘Avatar’ effects added in.

This segment focused on the wall camera right of the main anchor desk with a virtual freestanding panel inserted over the actual wall, which features a video wall installation that’s about the same width as the virtual one but much shorter.

As the announcer read copy, the virtual screen showcased a sequence featuring the company’s “wingfoot” logo driving a series of action shots depicted as if they were painted or drawn on the sides of buildings’ exteriors.

The full company logo was inserted below the base of the virtual screen complete with a reflection effect on the studio floor.

During the segment, the camera slowly moved in as a 3D model of the famous Goodyear Blimp circled the virtual video wall element.

Although, at a quick glance, the general layout is similar to how the “Avatar” graphics were added on top of the first, shorter bump earlier in the broadcast, it appears the Goodyear version was meant to be read as a freestanding video wall given how the perspective shifts slightly as the viewport moves.

While sports broadcasts, in general, often have a looser approach to distinguishing between advertising and content than newscasts, the “Avatar” and Goodyear sponsored segments still were still well separated from the editorial content of the show but also took advantage of the studio to make it feel, quite literally, that the spots were part of the studio.

In this 2018 graphic, ‘NBC Nightly News’ aired a sponsor announcement for its ‘Across America’ series.

Network and local newscasts have used similar approaches to the first, shorter “Avatar” bump for years — often with a wide, “beauty” or blurred view of the studio set in the background with a sponsor’s logo inserted over it. 

Also in 2018, ‘Nightly’ showcased sponsor Clartin via its on-set video walls. Both ABC and CBS have used similar approaches over the years as well.

The second, longer “Avatar” segment was a bit more extensive in that it enveloped almost the entire studio, though it, perhaps notably, did not attempt to include the anchors seated at the anchor desk (which likely would have been tricky to accomplish anyway given that the clips appear to have been at least partially modified in post-production.

The Goodyear segment was, at least at its core, similar to traditional sponsorship announcements, but added the AR-style feel that added another layer of visuals to the look.

TV broadcasters across all genres and sizes often look for ways to embed sponsor logos — with efforts ranging from including corporate logos in tickers, on weather and traffic maps or  sportscasts and other franchise segments.

Similar to how naming rights are often sold for sports arenas, it’s common for sports programming (or segments on local news) to feature a single sponsor whose logo appears on-screen or on-set during much or all of the sportscast as well as being announced at before or after the segment — or both. This is also sometimes used during weather, traffic, health, consumer or other select segments.

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Newscasts had been largely “hands off” in terms of having a single sponsor in recent memory, though in the early days of TV news, entire broadcasts were titled with a sponsor’s name — think of NBC’s “Camel News Caravan” sponsored by the Camel cigarette brand.

More recently, newscasts have experimented with other ways of getting more exposure for sponsors, such as single-sponsor broadcasts presented with “limited commercial interruption,” typically one or two commercials for the sponsor running a few minutes in length in total while often also expanding the footprint for editorial content.

Sponsor announcements still show up from time to time on network news and are often combined with a more traditional commercial immediately before or after.

In some cases, the advertise may pay a premium for the announcement or it can be included as part of an overall advertising buy.

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