NEW YORK (May 13, 2008) — Aligning the world’s No. 1 family vacation destination with the worldwide leader in sports, Walt Disney World Resort and ESPN are joining forces to re-brand Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex with the ESPN brand, creating an entertaining and immersive experience for the nearly 2 million athletes, coaches and spectators who come through the Disney sports complex each year.
Plans for the re-branding initiative — which was announced today during the ESPN upfront presentation to advertisers and sponsors — are still in the development stage, but initial concepts involve renaming the sports complex and incorporating the signature elements of ESPN throughout the 220-acre facility, which is a leading venue for amateur and professional sports in the country. The project aims to enhance the experience of both athletes and spectators by connecting them to their favorite ESPN programs, personalities and elements. It also will provide advertisers new sponsorship opportunities at the grass roots level.
“This is a natural and exciting pairing of two powerful brands to create a one-of-a-kind, immersive sports venue that will enable athletes, coaches and guests to experience sports in a whole new way,” said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts. “This project builds on our collaborative successes and positions us to explore more opportunities with ESPN to create new experiences for guests at Walt Disney World Resort.”
“Our involvement in the Disney sports complex will provide greater opportunities for us to connect directly with athletes, coaches and fans in a highly immersive way,” said George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN Inc. and ABC Sports, and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks. “Our involvement also provides us with a unique and exciting new media platform that will enable our advertisers and sponsors to reach new customers and bring their products and services to life.”
The re-branding of the Disney sports complex is the latest initiative in the growing sports business at Walt Disney World Resort. In December, the sports complex debuted additional outdoor playing fields for football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey competitions. And this summer the sports complex will open Jostens Center, a new state-of-the-art field house that will allow Disney to accommodate twice as many indoor sports events each year. Additional expansion plans are being explored.
The Disney sports complex annually hosts more than 180 events in 50 different sports involving athletes from more than 70 countries. Among those events are the Atlanta Braves spring training season, a Tampa Bay Rays regular-season series, the Major League Baseball Draft, the NBA Pre-Draft Camp, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp, Chelsea Football Club events, the Pop Warner Super Bowl, AAU National Championships, Varsity All-Star Cheerleading competitions, USSSA events and the Walt Disney World Marathon, one of the top marathons in the nation. ESPN televised 20 sporting events from the complex in the last year. Walt Disney World Resort and ESPN also annually work together to host the popular ESPN The Weekend event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.