Step inside the hallways of ESPN's Bristol, Connecticut headquarters — especially the hallways connecting the set and staff of SportsCenter, the network's flagship account of what transpires in the sports world — and you can be sure of only one thing: Neither the show, nor the sports, ends when the picture fades to black.
That's the impression ESPN has left on its audience, and TV viewers in general, the last seven years with "This Is SportsCenter," the rollicking series of promos where, to quote freely from the popular computer game You Don't Know Jack, pop culture, sports and SportsCenter's anchorpeople collide. Only in the universe these spots create can basketball star Grant Hill become a lounge pianist or the San Diego Chicken get shellacked by a hockey legend. This week, "This Is SportsCenter" enters CTAM's Hall of Fame, the small in number, but memorable by stature, universe of cable promotion and outreach ventures.
Weiden & Kennedy, creators of Nike Inc.'s "Just Do It" campaign, already had a relationship with ESPN (on the launch of its first spin-off network, ESPN2) when assigned responsibility for a SportsCenter
promotion in 1995. After a trip to Bristol, Wieden's staff came up with the idea of making its campaign more than just behind-the-series scenes. Given that SportsCenter
was out to be destination viewing for the sports fan, the campaign would, in a self-depreciating documentary style, make the show an epicenter for athletes, managers, mascots — anyone in sports.
As mocumentary — the way Wieden's creative team depicts their work — the spots "break through promotional and advertising clutter by having sports celebrities not only in places you don't expect, but roles you don't expect them in," explained Char Beales, president and CEO of CTAM. The conclusion comes from close encounters with Jeremy, Beales' 16-year-old son. "I hear the show every morning when I wake up. Every morning," she said. "When the show came to Washington, D.C., recently, near our headquarters, Jeremy got to go, meet the anchors and see George Bodenheimer (ESPN president). He's in heaven now."
ESPN fans are in heaven over having 150 "This Is" messages available anytime for their view on the channel's Web site. They can catch such notables as Michelle Kwan, Jon Bon Jovi, Venus and Serena Williams and athlete/presidential candidate Bill Bradley living life SportsCenter
Earlier this year, TV Guide
ranked one "This Is" spot among the top 25 best TV commercials ever. Add three more zeros, and you get the number of episodes SportsCenter
will have cablecast by mid-September. The program runs live three times per day (more often on weekends), with overnight and morning repeats.
Last year's honoree was MTV: Music Television's "Choose or Lose" campaign. The spot is one of two MTV campaigns in the Hall — along with the network's "I Want My MTV" campaign.