Iconic Ads: This is SportsCenter – ESPN
The humourous twists and behind the scenes banalities apart from the cameos made the series a huge success
The original campaign, directed by Bryan Buckley and Frank Todaro of Radical Media and led by ESPN director of advertising Allan Broce, debuted in 1995. It was created by the then-Weiden & Kennedy creative team of Larry Frey, Stacy Wall, Hank Perlman, and Rick McQuiston.
McQuiston, the campaign’s Art Director, noted, “It all started, basically, with ‘SportsCenter’ itself.” “The idea of sportscasters on ‘SportsCenter’ having fun with the news on the air while remaining serious about sports was an intriguing premise for a show, Hank Perlman and I felt. So, if it’s this goofy and funny on the air, think how crazy it could be surrounding ‘SportsCenter’ when they’re not on the air,’ we reasoned. So, just like they did for ‘Spinal Tap,’ we set out to create this other reality. We could accomplish virtually anything from there. It was open and airy, which is ideal for a creative.”
“This Is Spinal Tap” – A Rockumentary, directed by Rob Reiner on his directorial debut, is a 1984 American mockumentary film co-written and directed by Martin Di Bergi. It is about members of the fictional English heavy metal band Spinal Tap (dubbed “one of England’s loudest bands”), and Rob Reiner as documentary filmmaker Martin “Marty” Di Bergi, who follows them on their American tour. The film mocks rock bands’ conduct and musical pretensions, as well as rock films’ hagiographic inclinations.
The Wieden team spent a week in Bristol watching how “SportsCenter” is made: sport-jacketed anchors wearing shorts/ jeans below the camera’s range, production assistants running back and forth with precariously balanced stacks of videotapes, and sportscasters applying their makeup in the bathroom.
It was Perlman’s idea to turn “an industrial-park town” into “the centrepiece of the sports universe,” as he describes it.
The odd twists on the show’s behind-the-scenes banalities have made for some of the series’ most humorous moments, aside from the abundance of cameo parts by some of the sports’ most famous individuals. How the crew deals with on-the-job accidents (victims of coffee scalds and rug burns are rushed off the set, bravely giving their coworkers the thumbs-up sign as they’re hauled away), or how highlights are gathered are just a few examples.
“This Is Sportscenter” became a cultural phenomenon.
The anchors aren’t the only ones who have fallen in love. Hundreds of celebrities, including Tiger Woods, Dennis Rodman, and Michael Jordan, have appeared in these commercials. The response has been great, especially considering the campaign’s modest cost (the first 70 spots cost around $1 million — less than the average cost of a single hyper-slick Nike spot).