Corporate Eye

Disney Co. Chooses ESPN Brand Over Disney Brand

In October 2007, I wrote a post on my branding blog, Brandcurve, about the Disney brand strategy. In the post, I referenced a q&a session with Disney (NYSE: DIS) CFO Tom Staggs at the Merrill Lynch 2007 annual Media Fall Preview event where Staggs basically revealed the secret to Disney’s brand strategy – identify strong, popular brands then exploit them around the world.

WIth that brand strategy in mind, I was actually surprised to read that Disney is abandoning its brand name on one of its popular properties. According to Brandweek, Disney will remove the Disney brand name from its sports complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and replace it with the ESPN brand name.

Of course, Disney owns 80% of ESPN (Hearst Corp. owns the remaining 20%), but I was still surprised by this move. It seems to run counter to the Disney brand strategy, particularly since the move entails removing the Disney name from a complex on Disney property.

I’m not saying that rebranding the sports complex with the ESPN name doesn’t make sense from a marketing and business perspective. Certainly, ESPN is more closely associated with sports. I’m just surprised that Disney, who likes to have its brand on everything, has chosen to remove its name from what is not only a popular complex but also one on the property of its most popular theme park destination.

What are your thoughts on this Disney branding decision?

Photo source: Flickr

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

This makes complete sense to me. When I think “Disney” I don’t think “sports.” I think they can only gain here. There’s nothing about the ESPN brand that is any less family-friendly than the Disney brand, but I can think of a lot of folks in the sports-loving demographic that wouldn’t want to go to a Disney facility because they think it would be too childish or not serious enough. It’s a good move.

I agree, Matt. From a marketing perspective and appealing to existing sports fans, I think rebranding with the ESPN name makes sense, but I’m still surprised by this move which seems to run counter to Disney’s existing branding strategy of extension and exploitation. It’s actually good to see Disney making a move in a different strategic direction. As much as I’m a Disney fan, there is value to not putting all your eggs in one basket. Perhaps Disney is catching on to that old phrase.

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