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