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Eurosport - s Clever Promos With John McEnroe and Michael Phelps Helped Revive Its Musty Brand - Adweek

Eurosport’s Clever Promos With John McEnroe and Michael Phelps Helped Revive Its Musty Brand Puts a new spin on iconic footage ahead of its first Olympics

Discovery Communications had grand ambitions when it bought Eurosport in 2015, but as the company beefed up the network’s sports content with major events like the Olympic Games, it also needed to change perceptions about a brand that was seen as irrelevant and out of touch.

To help combat that, the new Eurosport team has created a number of clever promos over the past year—some featuring new star commentators like John McEnroe, others putting new spins on iconic sports events—that are helping “shock” audiences into realizing how much the network has evolved, said Eurosport CEO Peter Hutton. Already, linear ratings are up 28 percent this year.

When it launched in 1989, Eurosport was “one service trying to serve all of Europe,” Hutton said. But over time, “it was never really invested in.” That changed when Discovery, which first invested in the network in 2012, bought it outright in 2015. The company’s two networks reach 95 countries in Europe, Asia and Australia, and it also has a thriving direct-to-consumer business.

Discovery’s challenge was to make Eurosport “more relevant to an audience,” Hutton said, buy buying more premium rights to major events like the Olympics (beginning with the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea and stretching to 2024), the U.S. Open and injecting the network with personality.

Prior to Discovery’s ownership, Eurosport would normally “get the sort of commentators that are available 250 days of the year. … They’re not necessarily the world’s best commentators,” said Hutton, who spoke with reporters Wednesday in New York.

He made a splash by hiring John McEnroe in 2015 as a commentator for Eurosport’s U.S. Open coverage.

“What we did was go out and say, ‘What’s the talent that’s going to shock people? What will take people to a place that Eurosport has never been before?’ And signing up McEnroe as the face of our tennis was a really good example,” he said.

Ahead of this year’s U.S. Open, Eurosport shot a promo featuring McEnroe, who visits a barbershop and asks for “something special for the U.S. Open.” The barber gives him cuts from iconic tennis stars like Bjorn Borg and Andre Agassi before he settles on a familiar look, which McEnroe deems “a winning haircut.”

Olympic legends square off

The McEnroe spot is the latest example of Eurosport using promos to help change perceptions of the musty brand and increase viewers.

“One of the big challenges for every sports broadcaster is how do you win a new spectator for an event? Because people preach to the converted,” Hutton said. “We have to find ways of getting new audiences to the things that we take real pride in.”

Eurosport’s solution was to invest in short-form video content that had the potential to go viral and show its potential viewers “that this old brand Eurosport that has been around for 30 years has really changed,” Hutton said. “It’s quite difficult to change the perception of a brand that people have grown up with, because they think they know you.”

The network rolled out a series of explainer spots, which Hutton said are “trying to make sport more accessible to people and explain what’s the different between this athlete and another athlete.”

One spot, which breaks down how Usain Bolt was able to defeat Tyson Gay in the men’s 100-meters at the 2009 World Championships, has 23 million views and counting. Those people “have watched it, seen the Eurosport logo and identified us with something that’s really a top-end production,” Hutton said.

Not only do they “explain something really simply,” but because the video relies on graphics and music, it “really works for a lot of different markets at the same time. It genuinely shows you something here that you didn’t see before,” said Hutton, who plans to have 20 in rotation by the end of next year.

As it prepares to kick off its Winter Olympics coverage in February, Eurosport is taking an innovative approach to its early Olympics promos, using its Olympics archive access to create Race of Legends promos allowing star athletes from several eras to compete alongside one another. One Race of Legends promo features a 100-meter butterfly race between Michael Phelps (2008), Mark Spitz (1972) and Michael Gross (1984).

The Olympic spots—another pits Usain Bolt (2012), Carl Lewis (1984) and Jesse Owens (1936) against one another in the 100—play up “the progression of sports and talent, but it also associates it with great moments from when you were growing up watching it,” Hutton said. “It’s being reminded of how important the Olympics is, and was, at those moments.”

Four spots have aired already, with around 15 more in the pipeline.

Eurosport hopes the spots will help separate them from the promotional efforts of other sports networks, which take “the easy option” and run promos featuring the same highlights over and over.

“Sports TV is not necessarily hugely creative,” Hutton said. “If you can genuinely add value and make people love that sport more, then you’re getting in the right space.” That way, he added, “your brand is always associated with the premium stuff.”

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LZ Granderson reacts to John McEnroe saying that if Serena Williams played on the men's circuit, she'd be "like No. 700 in the world." (1:09)

Serena Williams fired back via Twitter on Monday after John McEnroe said that if she played on the men's circuit, she'd be "like No. 700 in the world."

Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based.

— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) June 26, 2017

I've never played anyone ranked "there" nor do I have time. Respect me and my privacy as I'm trying to have a baby. Good day sir

— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) June 26, 2017

In an interview Sunday, McEnroe told NPR that Williams has earned the designation as the greatest woman to play tennis, but he wouldn't put her in the category of greatest to ever play tennis.

"That doesn't mean I don't think Serena is an incredible player. I do. But the reality of what would happen on a given day is Serena could beat some players, I believe, because she is so incredibly strong mentally," McEnroe said.

"But if she had to just play the circuit -- the men's circuit -- that would be an entirely different story."

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  • No. 701: 'Hope that I would win' vs. Serena

    Men's world No. 701 Dmitry Tursunov has weighed in on the John McEnroe-Serena Williams controversy, saying he would expect to beat women's No. 3 Williams.

    McEnroe, who works for ESPN as an analyst, went on to say that maybe at some point a female tennis player could be better than anybody.

    "I just haven't seen it in any other sport, and I haven't seen it in tennis. I suppose anything's possible at some stage," he said.

    On Tuesday, McEnroe declined to apologize for his comments during an appearance on "CBS This Morning" and said he "didn't know it would create controversy."

    He also offered his suggestion to resolve the debate.

    "Why don't you combine, just solve the problem -- I'm sure the men would be all for this -- the men and women play together, and then we don't have to guess," McEnroe said.

    He estimated he would be ranked around 1,200th in the world if he were playing professional tennis today.

    McEnroe has praised Williams in the past. When she won Wimbledon in 2015, McEnroe called Serena "arguably the greatest athlete of the last 100 years." After Williams' US Open victory in 2012, McEnroe said, "You're watching, to me, the greatest player to ever play the game."

    Serena has 23 singles Grand Slams and 14 more in doubles. Roger Federer, by comparison, has 18 singles Slams and none in doubles.

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  • But Seriously, Tennis Great John McEnroe Says He s Seeking Inner Peace: NPR

    'But Seriously,' Tennis Great John McEnroe Says He's Seeking 'Inner Peace' 'But Seriously,' Tennis Great John McEnroe Says He's Seeking 'Inner Peace'

    John McEnroe reacts during a Men's Legends match against Jim Courier at the Connecticut Open in August 2015. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images hide caption

    John McEnroe reacts during a Men's Legends match against Jim Courier at the Connecticut Open in August 2015.

    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    In the late 1970s and early 1980s, tennis great John McEnroe triumphed three times at Wimbledon and four times at the U.S. Open. But all his achievements on the court did not prepare him for life off of it. After his professional career ended, he dabbled as a talk show host and as an art collector and appeared in movies and TV shows.

    Above all, McEnroe wanted to be a rock guitarist in his wife's band, but, he admits: "That was not going to happen."

    His wife, singer Patty Smyth, told him, "I want to play mixed doubles with you at Wimbledon." To which he replied, "Well, you don't play tennis."

    And she said, "Exactly."

    During his tennis career, McEnroe became known for outbursts on the court when he thought umpires had missed a call. In one classic exchange, he yelled at an official, "You cannot be serious! That ball was on the line!"

    That line has followed him for decades. "If a day goes by where I don't hear that at least a couple times, it's a miracle," McEnroe says. So he has decided to embrace it: His first memoir was called You Cannot Be Serious, and his new memoir is called But Seriously.

    Interview Highlights

    On not taking himself too seriously

    Believe it or not, I didn't take myself too seriously back then. . Even though I'm extremely disappointed that the last seven years of my career I didn't play as well as I thought I was, or get better, or keep improving, I didn't want to quit tennis at 26 or 27.

    But Seriously

    Hardcover, 277 pages |

    Buy Featured Book

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

    On reinventing himself after his pro career ended

    I was actually going through what turned out to be a separation and divorce from my first wife, [actress Tatum O'Neal], so I was unable to really think about anything else. We had three kids together and my head was all over the place and I couldn't even think about . the transition that I was anticipating I was going to be making. .

    I was sort of lost, but was open enough to experiment . so that I can find myself again, which isn't easy when you've peaked in your career at 26 years old.

    On why there aren't more great male American tennis players right now

    There's a lot of reasons, but the biggest one to me is the cost of it: the cost of play, the cost to train, the cost to get a court. All of this factors into the difficulty of getting a champion. The truth is . the game has become more athletic than ever, and quicker, you need to be more athletic, and our best athletes mainly are playing in basketball or football. .

    If you take a court the size of a tennis court and you decide you want to use it for a soccer field, say, you could fit a lot more kids. . When you talk about schools, they say: Well, it's better if we put a little soccer field in there and we get 20 kids running around kicking a ball. . Whereas tennis doesn't come as easily.

    Listen: John McEnroe on Serena Williams

    On calling Serena Williams the best female tennis player in the world

    Garcia-Navarro: We're talking about male players but there is of course wonderful female players. Let's talk about Serena Williams. You say she is the best female player in the world in the book.

    McEnroe: Best female player ever — no question.

    Garcia-Navarro: Some wouldn't qualify it, some would say she's the best player in the world. Why qualify it?

    McEnroe: Oh! Uh, she's not, you mean, the best player in the world, period?

    Garcia-Navarro: Yeah, the best tennis player in the world. You know, why say female player?

    McEnroe: Well because if she was in, if she played the men's circuit she'd be like 700 in the world.

    McEnroe: Yeah. That doesn't mean I don't think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen would be I think something that perhaps it'd be a little higher, perhaps it'd be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players. I believe because she's so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke 'cause she's been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, The U.S. Open, etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men's circuit — that would be an entirely different story.

    Garcia-Navarro: Many people over the years, including, we should mention Donald Trump, the President, wanted you to play her, and you seemed to have at least thought about it.

    McEnroe: Well I've thought about it. I didn't really want to do it, personally. I don't know, people always seemed — I would say why don't they go ask Roger Federer? Or someone, you know they added the old fart that's you know 25 years over the hill. And I think I can still play and I think I could still — I mean my kids don't think I can beat her anymore. Maybe I should get her now because she's pregnant, but the truth is that I think that sometimes —I don't know why in tennis, I get it's that one battle of the sexes when Bobby Riggs played Billie Jean.

    Garcia-Navarro: Billie Jean one of the most famous, iconic and most watched, I think tennis matches at the time.

    McEnroe: Yeah, it was no question. I think there was the most, the biggest attendance at the Houston Astrodome, and it was great that Billie Jean did that but. OK, but that doesn't mean, talk about other sports. If you go look at the times, for example, of the world's fastest females — and you know maybe it will change! You know my daughter, one the things she says is 'You're a feminist, Dad.' OK. I started with two boys, I got four girls now and I'm all for it and I'm trying to just get with it and figure it out.

    Garcia-Navarro: So, you're a feminist.

    McEnroe: Maybe at some point a women's tennis player can be better than anybody. I just haven't seen it in any other sport, and I haven't seen it in tennis. I suppose anything's possible at some stage.

    Garcia-Navarro: You really think at 60, you could possibly beat Serena Williams? Maybe pregnant.

    McEnroe: The way you put that makes me think that you have your doubts.

    Garcia-Navarro: Far be it from me to question you Mr. McEnroe.

    McEnroe: Well, you know, my kids do, so feel free to. But there's people that because of course as you get older — I'm not sure how athletic you are and how often you get out in whatever sport it is, but I have kept at it regularly. I've done it sort of doing this playing some other guys close to my age even though they keep getting younger and younger. Obviously, if I was going to do something like that, I would train very seriously for that to make sure my body was at, like, the peak it could be. Absolutely — to try and be as ready as I possibly could, but I bring things to the table, certainly until recently. I may be way past it, but I can still bring a few things to the table and so that's why I guess people still find it interesting to even talk about.

    On where to go from here

    I need to make sure that I enjoy the upcoming 10 — hopefully 20 — years of my life and just appreciate the ride that it's been, and be able to continue to . find that inner peace, in a way, because that's difficult for me. I grew up a perfectionist getting pushed, pushed, pushed a lot. . Especially when my dad passed away a few months ago, I said, Wait a second, you've got to just take a step back here and smell the roses a little bit more. That would be my Number One goal moving ahead.

    Radio producer Peter Breslow, radio editor Stacey Samuel and Web producers Beth Novey and Wynne Davis contributed to this story.

    Correction June 25, 2017

    A previous version of this story misspelled the name of tennis great Billie Jean King.

    John McEnroe won - t apologize to Serena Williams for insulting remarks - National

    John McEnroe won’t apologize to Serena Williams for insulting remarks

    John McEnroe talks about his Serena Williams comments on 'CBS This Morning.'

    A match between John McEnroe and Serena Williams, taking place off-court, is drawing more attention than an actual game of tennis.

    McEnroe, 58, a former No. 1-ranked tennis superstar, has caused an uproar after he commented on Williams’ ability if she were to play the sport against a man. Williams, 35 — at one time No. 1, and currently ranked No. 4 in the world — responded to his remarks, telling him to keep her “out of his statements.” On Tuesday morning, McEnroe refused to apologize.

    It all started Sunday during an NPR interview, as McEnroe was promoting his memoir But Seriously. He said that Williams is the greatest woman to play tennis, but he wouldn’t put her in the all-time greatest category of tennis players.

    “Perhaps [her ranking] would be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower,” he said. “And on a given day Serena could beat some players. I believe because she’s so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke because she’s been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, the US Open etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story. [She would] be like 700 in the world.”

    He then appeared to backpedal slightly.

    “That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player… [she’s the] best female player ever — no question. Maybe at some point, a women’s tennis player can be better than anybody. I just haven’t seen it in any other sport, and I haven’t seen it in tennis. I suppose anything’s possible at some stage.”

    Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based.

    I've never played anyone ranked "there" nor do I have time. Respect me and my privacy as I'm trying to have a baby. Good day sir

    Appearing on CBS This Morning on Tuesday, McEnroe was given a chance to apologize to Williams. He said flatly, “No.” (You can watch the exchange in the video, above.)

    After saying that he frequently gets asked about how he would fare against female players, McEnroe said that “it wasn’t necessary” for him to bring up Williams, and he “didn’t know it would create controversy.”

    “I don’t want anything to go wrong with Serena, because she’s pregnant,” he continued. “I don’t want to upset her or whatever it was. I think she was doing it tongue-in-cheek as well, and I think deep down we’re talking about something… I can’t even believe we’re talking about it.”

    “I’ve got a solution… solve the problem, and I’m sure the men would be all for this: the men and women play together. And then we don’t have to guess.”

    When confronted by co-host Gayle King, who said that his comments were “belittling” to women, McEnroe hypothetically ranked himself as No. 1,200 compared to Williams’ 700 in the men’s rankings.

    McEnroe’s comments fly in the face of remarks he made in 2012, when he said that Williams was “the greatest player to ever play the game.” After she won Wimbledon in 2015, he called her “arguably the greatest athlete of the last 100 years.”

    Williams herself has brought up the differences between men’s and women’s tennis. In 2015, she called them “almost two separate sports” and explained why.

    “If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes,” she said at the time. “No, it’s true. It’s a completely different sport. The men are a lot faster and they serve harder, they hit harder, it’s just a different game. I love to play women’s tennis. I only want to play girls, because I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

    Williams has won 39 Grand Slam titles (23 in singles, 14 in women’s doubles, 2 in mixed doubles) and has career earnings estimated at $84.4 million.

    © 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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    John McEnroe

    John McEnroe in conversation with John Inverdale Thursday 29 June 2017, 7.30-8.30pm King's College School (New Hall) £25 (inc copy of book)

    Come and join us for a very special night with the legendary tennis star and expert commentator John McEnroe on the publication of his long awaited follow-up to the international bestseller Serious.

    McEnroe picks up the story having reached the top of his game, to reveal his struggle to reinvent himself as father, broadcaster and author. Now the undisputed elder statesman of tennis, McEnroe has won over his critics as a matchless commentator and analyst at Wimbledon and other Grand Slam tournaments. The result is a richly personal account, blending anecdote and reflection on what it means to be and stay successful.

    This very special event will be John Mc Enroe's only UK event for But Seriously.

    Note: Ticket price includes a copy of But Seriously (Hardback: £20)

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