ESPN's Darren Rovell Now Just Straight-Out Rewriting Press Releases

Everyone gets what posthuman ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell is all about by now. He passes on useless trivia, acts like a cock on Twitter, reminds us that the world is a dark, sad, and terrifying place, and serves as a pure conduit for any business looking to pass on a brand message to ESPN readers. You know this, but what you may not know is just what a hilariously pure conduit he is.

A week ago we noted an uncanny resemblance between a Rovell article (?) and an advertising campaign featuring Drew Brees. A review of other Rovell posts on ESPN.com from last week shows remarkable similarities between some of them and various publicly available press releases.

The issue here isn't really that Rovell appears to be lifting from press releases; some of this is purely informational content, which can only be phrased so many ways. The issue is, rather, that the largest sports business on the planet appears to conceive of its sports business reporter's job as just passing on information sports businesses would like people to know, perhaps complementing it with a quick phone call to a flack or visit to Wikipedia. Why pay a guy who's a constant, low-grade embarrassment a lot of money to do that rather than just running the actual press releases? No one knows. The workings of Bristol are mysterious.

At any rate! Here are some curious and interesting coincidences. If you find more like them, let us know in comments.

May 20

Last Tuesday, Skittles announced the vital news that they'd secured an NFL sponsorship with a press release entitled "Skittles Brand and NFL Activate Sponsorship." Rovell was quick to the scene with a report titled "Skittles lands NFL sponsorship." It seemed somewhat familiar.

Rovell:

Officials with the rainbow candy company, which is owned by Mars Inc., announced Tuesday that it now has an official NFL sponsorship.

Press release:

National Football League game days are about to get awesomer: the Skittles brand ­made by Wrigley, a subsidiary of Mars, Inc. ­is an official NFL sponsor.

Rovell:

The deal is an add-on for Mars, which already has a sponsorship through the league with its Snickers partnership.

Press release:

While Skittles made its NFL debut around Super Bowl XLVIII and this season marks the first long-term activation with the NFL, it complements a longstanding relationship between the League and the brand's parent company, Mars Inc., whose Snickers brand has sponsored the League since 2003.

In fairness to Rovell, his report does contain an original quote from a flack who pulled off the impressive trick of sounding much less human when talking to Rovell than he did in an actual press release. Good times.

Rovell:

Matt Montei, senior director of confections and seasonal at Wrigley, a subsidiary of Mars, said the plan is for Skittles to become an "integrated part of the game day experience, both through retail and in-stadium activations."

Press release:

"Over the last few years, NFL fans have embraced our brand in a truly breathtaking way, and we're very excited that this program will make it possible for us to express our appreciation in bigger and better ways," said Matt Montei, Sr. Director of Confections and Seasonal at Wrigley.

May 21

On Wednesday, the news just kept on coming when the Orlando Magic made an important announcement ("Orlando Magic Offers the Opportunity to Win $100K Through Draft Promotion"). Rovell, as you'd expect, was right there, letting the masses know all about "Magic offering $100k to local fans."

Rovell:

The Magic announced a contest Wednesday in which they will give a local fan $100,000 for correctly picking the selections made in the lottery part of the 2014 NBA draft, which will take place June 26.

Press release:

The Orlando Magic is offering the opportunity to win $100,000 for accurately predicting the players to be drafted in spots 1-14 of the 2014 NBA Draft.

Rovell:

Each fan can make one submission through the team's website or by mail. Candidates must be 18 or older and live within a 75-mile radius of Orlando.

Press release:

"Guess the Draft Order 2014"* is open to Florida residents, 18 and older, who live within 75 miles of Orlando, one entry per person. Entries may be submitted at www.orlandomagic .com/draftcontest or mailed to the Orlando Magic at 8701 Maitland Summit Blvd., Orlando, 32810.

Rovell:

If multiple fans accurately guess the first 14 players taken, regardless of what teams take them, the $100,000 will be split among those winners. If no one wins, the Magic will randomly award two 2014-15 season tickets to a contest entrant.

Press release:

If multiple fans accurately predict the order of the players selected with the top 14 picks, the prize money will be shared equally by the winners.

...

If no one accurately predicts the correct order of the players selected with the first 14 picks, one person will be drawn from all eligible entries and awarded two season tickets for the 2014-15 Orlando Magic season.

May 22

On Thursday, Rovell declined to rest. "Callaway Golf Wants You To Win Phil Mickelson's Paycheck," Callaway Golf told the world, and ESPN's sports business reporter was right there to let the world know with "First prize: Phil Mickelson's payday."

Rovell:

Aiming to galvanize the struggling golf-equipment market, Callaway is offering golfers a chance to win the same amount of money that Phil Mickelson wins at this year's U.S. Open.

The company announced Thursday the "Big Big Bertha Payday" promotion whereby golfers who demo the brand's Big Bertha drivers or fairway wood at retailers before the final round of this year's U.S. Open will be entered into a drawing.

...

Consumers who demo the product will be given a code and entered into a random drawing. The winner will win whatever Mickelson wins. If he wins the U.S. Open, Mickelson and the lucky consumer will win $1.5 million.

Press release:

Demoing Callaway Golf Company's (NYSE: ELY) new Big Bertha clubs can help golfers pick up more distance, and now gives them a chance to win the same dollar amount as Phil Mickelson's official prizewinning paycheck at the Pinehurst event on June 12, 2014-June 15, 2014 (up to a maximum of $1.5 million US dollars, the estimated first place winnings). Callaway this morning announced "The Big Big Bertha Payday," a promotion that starts today in the US and Canada. Golfers that demo a Big Bertha Alpha Driver, a Big Bertha Driver or a Big Bertha Fairway Wood at a participating location will receive a code that they can use to enter for a chance to win the same dollar amount that Phil Mickelson wins at the season's second major championship.

Rovell:

Last month, Callaway reported that sales of its woods, irons and golf balls were all up more than 20 percent over the past three months, but the company stressed that challenging market conditions and heavy promotional activity would result in sales that could trend down as much as 5 percent in the upcoming quarter.

The company projects sales of $880 million to $900 million for fiscal 2014, up from sales of $843 million last year.

Oddly, this information isn't to be found anywhere in the original Callaway release. Cursory Googling, though, turns up "Callaway Golf Company Announces A 22% Increase In Sales And A 30% Increase In Earnings For The First Quarter Of 2014; Reiterates Financial Guidance."

Callaway Golf Company (NYSE: ELY) today announced its first quarter 2014 financial results, including a 22% increase in sales driven by double digit growth in woods (+33%), irons (+29%), and golf balls (+24%).

...

The Company has reported that it expects challenging market conditions in the second quarter because of a late start to the 2014 golf season as well as high retail inventory levels and anticipated promotional activity. Due to these conditions, as well as the successful retail sell-in during the first quarter, the Company estimates for the second quarter of 2014 (compared to the second quarter of 2013) that its sales will be flat to down 5% percent and that its earnings per share will be breakeven to slightly profitable.

May 23

On Friday, Rovell didn't post anything suspiciously similar to a readily available press release. He did, however, post something credulous ( "Dayton cashes in on Flyers' success") about a report ("Estimated Publicity Value of the 2014 Dayton Flyers NCAA Basketball Tournament Bid") issued by the city of Dayton, Ohio. As you'd by now expect, it bore eerie resemblances to the original.

Rovell:

A report issued by Dayton's city commissioners this month concluded that the Flyers garnered the equivalent of $36.7 million for Dayton during the play of their four games, $34.5 million from replays and television clips, and $726,321 in value from social media posts.

Report:

The game play value is estimated at $36.7 million; clips from cable and network television brought a combined value of $34.5 million. Social media exposure was harder to gauge. We used a best practice valuation of ¢0.005 for Twitter impressions and $2.4 for a tagged Facebook post. Together, the publicity value for Facebook and Twitter is $726,321.

Rovell:

The team's Twitter handle, @daytonflyers, received more than 90 million impressions from the start of the tournament on March 18 to when the team was knocked out by overall top seed Florida on March 29.

Report:

From March 18 to March 30, the @DaytonFlyers account received 90.1 million impressions and more than 52,000 tweets

ESPN declined to comment on the brand value of a reporter offering up what are to all appearances slightly reworded press releases, but our impression is that they're entirely unconcerned over this continuing practice. They hired him to do a job, and he does the job he was hired to do.