ESPN turns to Durham ad agency to promote new SEC Network

Sports powerhouse ESPN has reached deep into the heart of ACC country to advertise the launch of its SEC Network.

Durham advertising agency McKinney has been tapped to develop a series of print, TV and online ads promoting the 24/7 network that will debut next August. Financial details aren’t being disclosed.

McKinney “really wowed us with their passion and strategic thinking,” said Aaron Taylor, senior vice president of marketing at ESPN.

Taylor said that being in Durham actually was a plus for McKinney.

“Our office for the SEC Network is going to be based in Charlotte,” he said. “So McKinney was geographically appropriate from that standpoint, just from a proximity standpoint.”

The new network intends to broadcast about 45 Southeastern Conference football games and more than 100 men’s basketball games, 60 women’s hoop contests, 75 baseball games and other events each year. It will also feature original content.

ESPN owns the SEC Network, which it formed after striking a 20-year deal with the conference.

ESPN “is one of the most valuable brands in the world and ... the most powerful brand in sports, and sports is at the core of the American psyche,” said McKinney CEO Brad Brinegar. “How could any agency not just be thrilled to have ESPN as a client?”

The agency’s first TV spot for the new network was previewed Friday at a news conference in Atlanta before the SEC football championship game at the Georgia Dome. Broadcast dates for the spot haven't yet been set, but you can see it online here.

“Watching the SEC – whether it is gymnastics or tennis or football or basketball or baseball – it’s a celebratory, immersive, passionate experience,” said Jonathan Cude, McKinney’s chief creative officer. “That will be reflected in the work.”

The 190-employee agency, which includes 165 workers in Durham, is by far the Triangle’s largest ad agency. Its client roster includes Nationwide, Travelocity, Samsung, Meijer, Sherwin-Williams and Gold’s Gym, among others.

McKinney was acquired last summer by Cheil Worldwide, a global marketing and communications company based in South Korea.

In September, McKinney landed the Mentos mints and gum account, but it also laid off about 30 workers in May after one of its larger clients was acquired.

The agency doesn’t disclose revenue, but “this win is certainly ending the year on a really high note,” Brinegar said.