ESPN (NYSE: DIS) is hoping that a virtual gaming contest and online video series will help drum up interest among teen athletes for its Elite 11 high school quarterback competition. It’s the first major cross-platform push (the Elite 11 will ultimately air on ESPNU) for the company’s high school sports division — ESPN RISE — which ESPN beefed up through a series of acquisitions over the past two years.
Advergaming company Arkadium developed the three games, which will be available on Elite11.com and eventually via the ESPN Arcade. Players get to create their own virtual quarterback, train him and let him play in a simulated Elite 11; the games are Facebook Connect-compatible, so players can share scores and track each other’s progress.
The webisodes follow some of the real high school quarterbacks during their preparation for the competition. They kick off this Thursday, Aug. 6 and lead up to the televised finale on Aug. 27. A new episode (and game, where applicable), will be released each week, with news coming out on the Elite 11′s requisite Facebook and Twitter pages.
All told, it’s a marked change in promotional tack for the event, which was previously kept behind closed doors. If ESPN RISE ultimately hopes to make the Elite 11 a well-known franchise — at least among its sweet spot of high school-aged athletes — then this campaign with its social media, video and casual gaming arms is a good start.
The one component that’s missing is mobile; an iPhone game or even just text message alerts would have helped to keep the teens engaged with the brand while they were on-the-go.