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January 24, 2009

ESPN.com Sells Out Its Best Feature

For a long time, ESPN has willingly whored itself out to brands looking for nifty product placement slots. (A cold Coors Light, anyone?) But one of its forays into the advertorial waters is bewildering, at best. The folks behind ESPN.com have taken what has long been one of their best features—the SportsNation poll that shows how respondents in each US state reply to questions—and turned it into an ad for, of all things, windshield-wiper blades.

A recent question on their front page asks which NBA player, Tony Parker or Lamar Odom, could most use a Bosch spark this weekend. Not only would the question not make sense even if the brand name were replaced with "windshield wipe," but its inclusion calls to mind a certain Raptors star, which makes the whole enterprise even dumber.

Terrible Poll
I know, I know. Bitching about the Worldwide Leader for selling itself out is as clichéd as bankers wearing sockless loafers. But the ESPN.com polling feature is a truly cool technological advance that should remain unsullied. It's a great way to see how people in different states feel about important issues in the sporting world and who's going to win the next big game. (For the former, pay close attention to how the people in Louisiana feel about anything involving Nick Saban, and for the latter, I'd advise you to make your bets based on what color Nevada turns.)

An ESPN spokesman told me, "We do have (and have had) sponsorship of a limited portion of our polls, and manage those on an individual basis." He called the Bosch poll "just an individual poll execution." I'd like to stage this individual poll's execution.

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