Drops Sponsorship of ESPN’s College Football Coverage Due to Penn State Scandal

November 11, 2011

The fallout over the scandal at Penn State has caused one of ESPN’s advertisers to temporarily pull its college football TV sponsorship.

In the wake of Penn State’s sex abuse scandal, has withdrawn its “Presenting Sponsorship” of “Saturday Afternoon College Football” on ESPN for the next two weeks. 

These games include Penn State-Nebraska, airing at noon this Saturday, and next Saturday’s Penn State-Ohio State game. 

With the scandal already taking the jobs of long-time Penn State football coach Joe Paterno as well as the college president, Graham Spanier, media buyers talked about being cautious about how to advise specific clients who buy college football involving Penn State.

Gary Carr, senior vp/executive director of national broadcast for media-buying agency TargetCast said: “I would probably pull out.” Still another media executive said: “We are asking the question; we haven’t decided yet.”

Another media agency executive did not believe all football viewers will associate the off-the-field events at Penn State with a football game on the field. In addition, some believe TV ratings could rise because of the huge amount of press attention surrounding the game.

Concerning the coverage of the Penn State-Nebraska game this Saturday, Norby Williamson, executive vp of production of ESPN, said in the network’s “Front & Center” podcast on November 10: 

“It’s going to be a balance. You are going to balance the game and the issues surrounding the game — new head coach, new administration. You have to be flexible and fluid, not tied to any rundown. There are questions about how the crowd will behave and how the crowd will react.”