President of Global Customer Marketing and Sales Ed Erhardt during the 2012 ESPN Upfront event.
(Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

Tuesday’s ESPN Upfront at The Best Buy Theater in New York City was impressive to say the least. While attending, it’s easy to see why they truly are “The Worldwide Leader.”

Upon entrance to the theater, you are immediately greeted by several collegiate mascots, including Big Al of Alabama, Otto The Orange of Syracuse, Sebastian The Ibis of the University of Miami, and Ramses of the University of North Carolina to name a few, just to get you in “the mood” and to begin to immediately transport you into a “game day” atmosphere.

Impressive and humble are two words that come to my mind when you describe ESPN President John Skipper and you could tell by the reaction and response from a mostly crusty, hardened NYC media buying / agency audience. Skipper’s style is best described as “confident, folksy charm.”

One of ESPN’s major collegiate and corporate focus is all about conquering the social world, but I gotta tell you–having Jon Gruden describe his Twitter strategy was pretty funny. To ESPN’s credit, they are ahead of the pack as it relates to harnessing and monetizing the social world.

They are als0 forging ahead with building one of the most comprehensive production facilities in the world to take advantage of this technological and digital world and it’s easy to understand why they are rolling up so much of the college space.

SEC ESPN Network is Big News Too

No longer do the collective eyes of the NYC media glaze over when the word “SEC” is spoken, as it is clearly recognized as a national brand now. Unlike the last 5-10 years when you would pitch “SEC” half of NYC would think it was the “Securities and Exchange Commission.” It was also interesting to learn that the new SEC ESPN Network will have its own version of ESPN College Game Day… wonder who will be hosting that? Could it be a star-turn for Paul Finebaum?

Ed O’Bannon Vs NCAA Case Was the Talk of the Industry

On the tips of all the college football elite’s tongues was the potential impact of the ruling in this case. Phrases like, “It will end amateur athletes as we know it;” and “…the death of the NCAA,” were common phrases uttered throughout hallway conversations (off the record of course).

Regardless of the outcome, and whether anyone can or will agree, the consensus is that the outcome will impact the future of all college athletics.

One solution could be a similar model to how US Olympic athletes train, compete, but yes… can do team or individual endorsement deals without losing their amateur status.

As corporate marketers, this will be a major issue to keep your eyes on going forward.

Until next week, stay tuned…