Shaq espn ad ESPN, the sports cable network, has a long history of witty and interesting advertising.  In this ad, Shaq is seen playing Scrabble on the ESPN bus with a couple of journalists.  See the ad here.

It's just so very well done.  The combination of a guy this large with a game this small.  The violence of one game versus the tranguility of the other.  But really what sells this is a great performance from Shaq.  He is ever so particular, almost fussy…until crossed. 

These ads are entirely in keeping with the stunts and pranks that males play in childhood and that professional athletes play into adulthood.  So ESPN isn't asking players like Shaq, Kevin Garnett, and LeBron James to leave their comfort zone. 

But this work is often so witty, so counter intuitive, so image-remaking, so alive to what makes proSports irritating and inauthentic, that is does remarkable things for these guys.  For perhaps the first and only time, we catch a glimpse of their range, intelligence, and humor, qualities that sports journalism doesn't seem able to communicate in any other forum. 


If anyone knows who it is at ESPN is responsible for these ads, please let me.  The journalist sitting on the far right, Stuart Scott, serves so well and so often, it's possible that he's a ring leader.  A cursory search with Google suggests that Wieden + Kennedy are also involved.

Thanks to Seth Gaffney, I am able to give you the name of the key player at ESPN. 

The Director of Sports Marketing there is Jeff Gonyo.

And the names of the Wieden + Kennedy team:

Creative Directors: Derek Barnes, John Parker

Copywriter: Josh DiMarcantonio

Art Director: Eric Stevens

Producer: Sarah Edwards

4 thoughts on “Shaqtastic

  1. El Gaffney

    hey grant, glad you enjoyed it. yes, w+k new york are behind these along, of course, with the espn marketing team. (shoot me an email if you were looking for specific names.)

  2. Rick Liebling

    Great call, Grant. I love how everyone in the ESPN ads tries to out-underplay each other. When the ESPN anchor plays it cool, the athlete plays it cooler. The deadpan is so straight it makes the ridiculous situations seem plausible.

  3. Mary Walker

    Fun commercial. Feels “ficcy” to me — meaning, having characteristics of fanfiction — in this case, that it’s a character development vignette, riffing on the “public persona” of Shaq (a bit like fanfiction RFP/ Real-Person-Fic, where fans write fictional behind-the-scenes episodes in the lives of celebrity personas).

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