SBD/April 15, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

ESPN Raising Profile Of World Cup Announcer With Humorous "First Date" Ad

Ian Darke will serve as ESPN's lead announcer for the World Cup this summer in Brazil, and the net has created a new ad campaign promoting the event in which Darke is "spoofing his style by describing the heated action at an awkward blind date at a restaurant," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Darke begins his commentary "while sitting on a bar stool, then rises to stand beside the actors playing 'Jim' and 'Stacey' before he sits between them at the table." He calls the action "in the parlance of a soccer match, his voice rising and falling with the encounter's ebbs and flows." The video was posted on YouTube April 1 and "has been viewed more than 445,000 times." Raising Darke's profile was an "internal project" for ESPN and separate from the "Every 4 Years" World Cup campaign the net is running via Wieden & Kennedy. The Darke video was "meant to be distributed digitally, specifically for ESPNFC.com," but with the "expectations that it would become social media fodder on Facebook and Twitter." ESPN Senior VP/Marketing Aaron Taylor: "It was an opportunity to create a supplemental message that we could advance behind a marketing initiative." Sandomir notes ESPN Marketing Manager Brendan Gillen initially thought of using Darke "at a fast-food drive-through, a gas station, a coin laundry or a bank ATM." He also thought of making a mockumentary where Darke would "give the play-by-play of a person's entire day." But Taylor said the first date concept "seemed fun, contemporary and charming" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/15).
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