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CW Turns to Sports (and Sports Media) to Boost ‘All American’

The CW has become known for its many superhero dramas. Should the network have its way this season, it will generate some sports headlines as well.

To draw attention to “All American,” a high-school drama centered on football and based on the life of former NFL player Spencer Paysinger, the CW is taking a big swing in sports media. Promotions urging people to try the show, which debuts Wednesday, are appearing on ESPN’s “Undefeated” portal as well as the Players’ Tribune, the outlet founded by Derek Jeter that gives sports stars a chance to offer first-person accounts.

And there are other new fields of play. CW is sponsoring local high-school sports reports in small markets reached by IHeartRadio stations. The network is even sponsoring a local high-school homecoming, says Caty Burgess, senior vice president of marketing and media strategy for CW. Visitors to certain sports bars might see coasters touting the show, and the CW has made sure to promote the series at various tailgates. “We definitely tried to cover the bases,” she says.

The series examines the story of a high school football player from South Los Angeles who is recruited to play for Beverly Hills High. Media buyers say the average cost of a 30-second ad in the program costs between $30,000 and $35,000.

Since the CW has invested heavily in super-hero serials like “Arrow” and “Black Lightning,” it has enjoyed an endemic fan base that can be courted, seeded and prodded. But some of its other programs don’t have an already-built base of energetic fans, leaving the network’s executives to experiment with other promotional methods.

Sports “is the obvious input for this show” says Burgess. “How better to set up our show as authentic than to go directly to a football audience with the fact that this is based on a real life that they care about?”

Some of the promotional pieces are quite elaborate. In a three minute video crafted for ESPN, sports announcer LZ Granderson spends time with Paysinger and learns about his life story. “What we realized very early on is that our secret weapon for this show is Spencer Paysinger himself,” says Burgess. Illustrating how the series was inspired by a true story, she says, could spur people to sample the series.

CW is interested in the show’s linear ratings, says Burgess, but is also taking other factors into consideration.”Viewership isn’t necessarily a story about overnight ratings,” she says, noting that the network expects some viewers to binge multiple episodes of “All American” in a single sitting.  CW has ordered five additional scripts for the series.

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