Sometimes It’s The Little Ideas: ESPN’s Ballpark Bistro

Every once in a while you hear about a little idea that somewhere down the line for the right enterprising brand could have a nice payoff. One of those ideas is ESPN’s new Ballpark Bistro idea, highlighted on their front row site late this week.

Anyone involved in sport and entertainment is always trying to crack as many levels of the ESPN exposure code as possible. How to pitch and place stories of all kinds across the various ESPN properties, most of which are now housed in Bristol, Connecticut. While opportunities for coverage are certainly growing and becoming more diverse at every network, from NBC-Universal to Fox to CBS with its college network, figuring out how to make a Bristol splash, nationally, locally, regionally, from mobile to digital to TV to radio to print, is still a big deal. Even with all the goings-on at Bristol, the ability for ESPN and employees to actually get out and experience the places they cover around the world is always going to be limited. Our 24/7 world lends much more to a digital experience than an in person experience for the most part, and many times bringing the experience to ESPN is just not possible.

So what did the folks at ESPN come up with for the summer? A way for those of all levels in Bristol to experience a bit of the places they cover, via the kitchen. The company has started Ballpark Thursdays, with each Thursday being branded on all levels with the decor, the video, and the flavors of a particular region or team. The project kicked off this Thursday, with employees being treated to the sights, sounds and tastes of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Is it something that will garner lots of press? No. Will it maybe familiarize those on all levels at ESPN with the goings-on of a particular team or region? Probably? Is it something that maybe down the road can be participatory even more with the team or the region being feted that day? Absolutely. Maybe dropping in Tommy LaSorda or Clayton Kershaw, virtually or in person, for Dodgers Day, or how about a visit from Dave Schultz with a Cheesesteak or two when Philly day pops around, all in the nature of convergence and immersion. It gives those on the outside of ESPN a little more of an entree into the understanding and the culture of the campus, and provides a little extra for all those, from the highest profile broadcasters to the accounting and admin staff, a chance to correspond and touch and feel some different stories, ones that maybe are not always top of mind.

Maybe the idea will just be a subtle feel good ESPN-only idea. Maybe it will evolve into something a little bigger, which teams may be able to utilize as an entree (no pun intended) to Bristol. Maybe the concept will get lifted to other forms of immersion with other media. Regardless, it is a fun and simple idea designed to increase awareness, understanding and fun, and it seems with its launch, is well on the way to doing so. Sometimes its the little things that count, even at such a huge entity like ESPN.