"A working class hero is something to be," John Lennon sang in 1970—and that sentiment rings every bit as true more than 45 years later.
Coney Island is a long way from North Carolina, but mcgarrybowen's new campaign promoting minor league baseball's Brooklyn Cyclones is a real-life Bull Durham story made even more striking by the fact that it debuts in the middle of the world's biggest and most expensive athletic spectacle in Rio de Janeiro.
The nameless player described by this ad won't win a gold medal or a World Series ring this year. You won't see him on a Wheaties box, and he won't star in any CGI-assisted sportswear ads. Although the ad features an actor, it's a message that will resonate with any minor league player or the fans who come out to see their understated athleticism.
"I wanted to tap into this poetic story of the minor league baseball player," says mcgarrybowen creative Danny Wantz, who led this campaign. "We always hear stories of players with $100 million contracts, but afterward you often see a decline in their productivity. If I want to see good baseball on a Sunday afternoon, I believe the Cyclones are better than the Yankees; these guys are fighting for their lives in the trenches and sleeping in hotel rooms. It's a fight to get to the top and have your name on the back of a pro team's jersey."
Mcgarrybowen has been working with the Cyclones on a pro-bono basis for more than two years, and this work is the team's most creatively forward-thinking campaign to date.
The agency ultimately cast an actor rather than a player for the lead role due to scheduling challenges, but he serves as a stand-in for every hardscrabble minor leaguer across the country.
"People think it's this amazing life," Wantz says, "but it's a tough grind and baseball is a hard sport to break into. They have more hope, passion and fight in them than I have personally seen anywhere else."
Wantz tells Adweek that the Brooklyn team is "all about pushing the envelope." And while this spot, titled "Made Men," makes for a stark contrast with many of this year's big-budget Olympics ads, Wantz took his inspiration in part from a recent Droga5 Under Armour spot that painted Michael Phelps in a more intimate light.
"I look to do sports ads whenever I get the chance," he says. "The drama, the cinematography and the way the camera moves are a beautiful dance that comes together to make a statement about something I'm already passionate about."
The ad was originally intended to be a one-off project, but agency and client are currently discussing potential expansions on the theme. "When we originally pitched this idea, I was worried that it went too far," Wantz says, "but [the Cyclones] loved it."
Client: Brooklyn Cyclones
Agency: mcgarrybowen New York
Campaign: "Amazin' Starts Here"
Spot: "Made Men"
Writer, Director: Danny Wantz
Directors of Photography, Editors: Danny Wantz, Mark Sanders
Lead Actor: Jonathan Zakus
Music: "Dark Day" by Junhak Lee
Voiceover: Kent Koren