BOCA RATON, FL: ESPN, the sports network, views brand health as a "living, breathing" metric, and has developed a toolbox featuring more than 15 components to ensure it captures all the necessary information.

Barry Blyn, ESPN's vp/consumer insights, discussed this subject at The Market Research Event (TMRE), a conference held by the Institute for International Research (IIR) in Boca Raton, Florida.

"Brand health is not a survey or occasional focus groups," Blyn reported during his presentation. (For more, including details of how the company breaks down its target audience, read Warc's exclusive report: How ESPN measures its brand health.)

"It's a living, breathing, improv interpretation of more than 15 instruments that combine to perpetually monitor the brand's 'tune'."

To build the "orchestra" required to support this notion, ESPN draws on quantitative inputs from several trackers and polls, as well as cross-platform measurement and social media metrics.

In this context, Blyn's audience learned, "The job of the researcher or 'conductor' is deciding which instruments are best to 'play' at key times, and which are just background noise."

As befits this holistic approach to brand health, he also shared another core lesson with the TMRE delegates: "The music never stops."

Continued Blyn, "People will often ask, 'How is the ESPN brand doing?' I'll say, 'Wait ten minutes. It's going to change'."

Alongside the array of quantitative measures at its disposal, ESPN leverages numerous qualitative techniques to dig deeper into consumer perception.

These include everything from semiotics and anthropology to seeing if sports fans can last a set period of time without watching its network.

Collectively, such efforts help the company stay in tune with the wants, needs and preferences of viewers.

"We relentlessly hunt for any weakness, ensuring we're never out of touch with the fans who love ESPN's brand," said Blyn.

Data sourced from Warc