LOS ANGELES — What do you get when you are preparing for the biggest sports network launch in history and you’re televising what likely will be the most-watched sports event of the summer? A golden opportunity.
That’s what FOX Sports Co-Presidents and COOs Randy Freer and Eric Shanks saw when they commissioned FOX Sports marketing chief Robert Gottlieb to create a rare 90-second promotional spot that would define for America the essence of FOX Sports 1, the nation’s new sports network, launching on Aug. 17. The spot first airs during FOX Sports’ coverage of the 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Enlisting the help of powerhouse HSI Productions and highly sought director Joseph Kahn, a Grammy Award-winner who has worked with dozens of A-list artists from Lady Gaga to Eminem, as well as directing award-winning commercials, a concept was designed with one solitary goal — define FOX Sports 1.
“This spot really is about introducing FOX Sports 1 to America, and letting fans know what they can expect come August 17,” Gottlieb said. “We recognize that sports ultimately is about the fun of loving your team and hating your rival. It’s about the fun of buzzer beaters, comebacks and huge hits. That is what we, as fans, look for in our favorite sports. Because fourth-and-goal with the game on the line may just be the most fun you have all year. So, this spot is about celebrating what only sports provides. The fun of anticipation … the fun of competition … the fun of celebration.”
Building a production team that includes two-time Academy Award nominee Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as director of photography, sports choreographer Mike Fisher, editor Adam Petrofsky, veteran visual effects supervisor Patrick Murphy from A52 and renowned commercial music house Elias Arts, the production scale far exceeds any previous FOX Sports commercial effort.
Major facilities — Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Gillette Stadium, Los Angeles Sports Arena, The Galen Center and Comerica Park — provide the backdrop.
Star athletes and sports personalities who have agreed to participate include Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco; former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson; four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon; U.S. Women’s Soccer Olympic gold medalist Alex Morgan; UFC champion Georges St. Pierre; boxing champ Canelo Alvarez; NFL Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis; USC head football coach Lane Kiffin; Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III, St. John’s basketball coach Steve Lavin, NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne; and reigning American League MVP Miguel Cabrera.
“Using any measure, this is the most ambitious commercial project we have taken on,” Gottlieb said. “This spot sets the tone for everything.”
The shoot, set to an energized version of the classic tune Happy Days are Here Again, opened in Charlotte, N.C., where Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne, worked with a 150-person production crew, dozens of extras and a few high-tech toys to re-create the intense on-track action of a 200-mph NASCAR race.
“You never know what to expect when doing something like this,” Gordon said of the shoot. “Things come together fast and they can change at the last second … it definitely takes you out of your element. You’ve got to be open-minded to what the director or the script may call for and have fun with it.”
Trailed by a tricked-out black Mercedes SUV equipped with the Ultimate Arm and filmed from above by a high-speed, drone helicopter equipped with a Blackmagic cinema camera, racing action is captured from angles never before seen on race day.
Two days later, the entire production team moved nearly 900 miles north, setting up a shoot at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., with Morgan, who scored the game-winning goal in the 123rd minute against Canada, sending the U.S. team to the gold medal game against Japan at the 2012 London Olympics.
Following Foxboro, production moved to Los Angeles for several days before wrapping in Detroit.
“I’m putting on a different hat today … from being the guy giving the orders, to being the guy receiving the orders,” Thompson said. “I haven’t worn that hat in a while but [Joseph Khan] had control of the situation and it was much like a practice, where we had to run the same scene over and over and over again … he’s a perfectionist and that’s a good thing.”
Added Flacco: “It should be fun, and that’s what it’s all about out here … we’re having fun and we’ll see where it goes.”