Q&A with Vice President of Marketing at the Big Ten Network Erin Harvego

Erin Harvego currently oversees consumer marketing for the Big Ten Network including brand positioning and strategy, media buying, on-air and grassroots promotions. She is the winner of numerous national cable and sports marketing competitions including multiple ACC Beacon, Addy, CTAM Mark, National Sports Forum and CableFaxie awards.

Harvego created the network’s successful marketing launch campaign in 2007 with the tagline, “This is Big Ten Country and this is where it lives.” She launched the network’s first pro-social campaign, BTN Live Big, and several memorable grassroots campaigns.

Harvego joined the Big Ten Network in May 2007 after serving as Director of Marketing and Promotion for Rainbow Sports Network, a subsidiary of Cablevision. Prior to joining Rainbow Sports Networks, Harvego held positions with Fox Sports Net Northwest and Fox Sports Net Arizona and earned her degree in Communications from the University of Utah, as well as her Masters of Sports Administration from Ohio University.


MSBC: How is your role in marketing different working for a media company versus a team, product or event?

Harvego: Television is a very fluid medium. It’s constantly changing and shifting and you are always adapting to new technology, new innovation. We work at very fast pace. But overall, there are so many new, exciting things happening right now whether you are working for a television network or a team or in event marketing. When I first started with the BTN six years ago, Twitter wasn’t even around. Now it’s a huge part of our marketing plan. So everyone has had to adapt. I also think it’s an incredible time to be in marketing. Everyone is able to reach their viewers or their fans much more effectively now. And it’s no longer a one-way communication, but more of a conversation between brands and consumers. You can interact more and that makes it more fun.

MSBC: What do you specifically remember about preparing for and launching the network?

Harvego: It was incredibly hectic. I started in May as the 14th employee. We have over 100 now. We only had a few months to pull everything together for the network’s launch in August. That meant not only developing a brand for the BTN, but also working to get distribution for the network so fans could see it. While challenging, it was also a very exciting time because you knew you had the opportunity to launch and create a network and be there from the very start. Many have said BTN has revolutionized college sports television.

MSBC: What have been the biggest areas of growth from your perspective in terms of the brand and marketing?

Harvego: When we first started out, people didn’t know what to expect, and thought we were only available regionally. We’ve always been nationally distributed and our focus is that BTN – like the Big Ten – is a national brand. Our first brand message was, “This is Big Ten Country and this is where it lives.” How true that’s become. If you’re a soccer player in New Mexico you might see a BTN telecast of Michigan and that might make you interested in going to school in Ann Arbor. And better yet, your family can watch you now in New Mexico on BTN. And they can also watch you online. Several years ago we created and expanded our digital platforms – BTN2Go and the Big Ten Digital Network – to showcase the best of Big Ten sports both nationally and internationally.

MSBC: How did the BTN Big10K come to life and what was the mission with that?

Harvego: The BTN Big 10K helps us drives awareness in Chicago, which is a very important market for us with more Big Ten fans and alumni here than anywhere else in the country. It’s great because even now when I run out on the lake front, I still see people wearing their school-specific BTN shirt, so the branding message just continues on. It’s always exciting as a marketer to be able to create an event like the BTN Big10k.

When we launched the race last year we were really looking for a marketing platform to drive awareness about BTN and the upcoming football season, as we have done every year in conjunction with the Big Ten Football kickoff luncheon. When the idea was pitched to us by a local running store, Fleet Feet, at first I wasn’t sure. Use a race to market a network? But as I looked into it, I realized it could have a lot of potential. One of the great things about it is that it has brought Big Ten fans together, which is why they’ve responded so positively. Our first year, even though we only had a little over two months between agreement and the actual race day, we sold out at 5,000 runners — we literally could not accommodate any more. This year we changed the course a little bit and had over 13,000 register. They came from 43 states and five other countries besides the U.S. For me personally, it was so exciting to see all these people representing their schools and showing their school pride. As a side benefit it was also an opportunity for us to do something good for the community. This year we raised money for the Special Olympics and that has been a really positive partnership.

MSBC: Where did that viral “Call Me Maybe” reenactment idea come from?

Harvego: The Big Ten mascots created a YouTube skit to the “Call Me Maybe” spot last year. It became a huge viral sensation. When we brought all the mascots to the BTN Big 10K, we asked them if they would reenact that in person for our event and they agreed to do that. That was one of the biggest hits of last year’s race. We took it to another level this year, where we had them perform again on stage after our spirit awards competition. It was just a really fun way to tie in what they did virally at a grassroots event.

MSBC: What are you and your team currently working on as we head into the academic year and football season?

Harvego: We’ve got an exciting year ahead of us. Right now we’re focused on our Big Ten Football Saturdays. We have some great matchups this year. We are also hard at work marketing BTN2Go, which is the mobile version of BTN that you can get on the internet, your tablet and smartphone and is available through virtually all the major television providers. Of course we are also looking forward to airing more hockey than ever before with the first year of the conference hockey in the Big Ten. We’re airing double headers each Friday starting in January and we’re putting together a campaign for that. We’ve got some great original programming coming up, including The Journey, which debuts in mid-October. With all that growth and excitement, it’s going to be a fun year to watch the Big Ten Network.

For media inquiries, please contact Brand Manager Liz Nagle
(248) 636-3661

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