George Bodenheimer, Executive Chairman of ESPN, is a veteran of over 30 years with the company. George cites mission, culture, and brand as the firm’s drivers for success.
ESPN started in late 1978 in Bristol, Connecticut. Initially the plan was to utilize the satellite network to cover Connecticut, but it quickly expanded to nationwide coverage. Getty Oil provided seed money in 1979.
The ESPN mission is “to serve sports fans” in an entertaining fashion and to get “it” right. Realizing fans’ unfamiliarity with Australian football, the company offered to send them copies of the rules. Over 45,000 requests were received, giving ESPN an early inkling of its audience potential. Company culture emerged as an underdog, hardworking, constructive vision, a “born in a muddy lot” view. The culture also featured “family first”, with promotion from within, mentor roles, assistance for families with problems, and accommodation for family activity schedules. Opportunity was also emphasized, with George citing his starting at the very bottom, and having the chance to get on the right career track, moving from production to sales and marketing.
Today, this culture involves 7000 employees. The firm’s staff takes sports seriously but not themselves, recognizing that fans like to laugh. As an additional example, there are those funny Sports Center ads.