When was the last time you saw a banner advertisement on the homepage of a major website promoting soccer in the United States? I had to rub my eyes when I saw it earlier Thursday afternoon on the homepage of Yahoo Finance, one of the top financial websites in the U.S. (see screenshot below).

The banner ad was promoting that afternoon’s semi-final clash between Spain and Russia, promoting the fact that you could watch it on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and ESPN360. While my respect for ESPN quickly skyrocketed in just a few short seconds, ESPN did something to quickly kill my enthusiasm. After clicking on the banner to see where it would take me, here’s what I saw (see screenshot):

There’s a good reason why the screenshot is so small and difficult to read. After clicking on the ESPN soccer banner from the Yahoo Finance homepage, the link took me to the ESPN360 homepage. What happened next I still can’t believe. The ESPN360 homepage generated the longest error message I’ve seen in my life (and I’ve been working in the internet business full-time for more than 10 years).

What you see in the above image is a screenshot of my dual monitors with the ESPN360 homepage open and the error message spanning across both of my screens (two 22″ monitors side by side). The error message must have been one long string with more than 200 characters. The original screenshot was far too wide to fit within this column on EPL Talk, which is why the above screenshot appears to be so small.

Before you ask, I tried going back to the banner ad again and seeing if the problem happened again, which it did, so the problem was definitely on ESPN’s side (or their adserver).

While ESPN should be commended for using advertising to promote their soccer coverage, a poorly executed banner ad like this one can do more harm than good.