The Boston Globe reports The Kraft Sports Group, which owns the New England Patriots, is selling local advertising for the new ESPNBoston.com, a partnership that some media analysts say could create a conflict of interest.
ESPN has launched several new websites in markets, including Chicago and Boston, and has ones planned for Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York. In these other markets, ESPN is using its local radio sales force to sell regional advertising for the new websites. But ESPN does not have a local sales group in Boston, so the sports media company has teamed up with the Kraft Sports Group, which also owns the New England Revolution.
“They’re utilizing a sales force to provide to fill a void they didn’t have in this marketplace,” said Stacey James, a spokesman for the Kraft Sports Group.
But some media analysts say the partnership could create a conflict of interest between the Patriots and ESPN, which televises some Sunday afternoon football games.
“It has to raise a conflict of interest. We’re supposed to be about transparency. How can you be transparent when you cut such a tight relationship between a media group and a team?” said Chris Cakebread, a Boston University professor who teaches advertising and sports marketing.
James said the partnership does not create any conflict and there are a number of examples where media entities partner with sports teams. He added that the Kraft Sports Group has agreements with Entercom’s sports radio WEEI and WBZ-TV to help sell ads for its Patriots programming.
ESPN spokesman Paul Melvin told the paper there are no concerns about a potential conflict of interest and “there is a very definitive wall between editorial and business.”
RBR-TVBR observation: We’re still scratching our heads about this conflict of interest—what, is ESPN going to report the wrong scores of games that the Patriots or Revolution play in? Are they going to predict the Patriots and Revolution will win each and every upcoming game? We think not.