It was a clear and sunny day in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on May 13, 2008. Ken Potrock eagerly watched as Disney executives announced the company’s intention to rebrand the Wide World of Sports Complex. The facility would now incorporate myriad interactive elements and boast the ESPN name, known by fans everywhere as the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.” The repositioning made perfect sense given Disney’s ownership of ESPN and ESPN’s current presence at the Walt Disney World Resort that included an ESPN Club restaurant and an annual “ESPN The Weekend” fan event at Disney’s Hollywood Studio—both of which are routinely embraced by the sports enthusiasts visiting the Complex.
“Our involvement in the Disney sports complex will provide greater opportunities for us to connect directly with athletes, coaches, and fans in a highly immersive way,” said George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports. “Our involvement also provides us with a unique and exciting new media platform that will enable our advertisers and sponsors to reach new customers and bring their products and services to life.”1 Just months earlier, Potrock had been promoted to become senior vice president of Global Sports Enterprises, effectively placing him in charge of Disney’s enormous athletic venue. In the previous decade, under the leadership of former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Reggie Williams, Disney’s Complex had evolved to become a thriving sports destination that brought hundreds of thousands of visitors annually to the Orlando area.
Williams had left the project for health reasons in late 2007, and Potrock was given the challenge of trying to find new ways to expand the facility’s success and international stature and, in the process, increase revenue. While the Complex had worked extremely well for Disney in the past, given its ability to leverage its theme parks and hotels, it had never quite taken full advantage of