College Football Is an Epic Battleground in Wieden + Kennedy’s First Work for Fox Sports

Clans clash in NCAA preview spot

No replays. No compromises. No thoughts of next week, or even tomorrow. The only goal: Destroy your rivals at all costs.

College football is an all-out clash of clans in Wieden + Kennedy’s dramatic debut ad campaign for its newest client, Fox Sports.

NCAA football season starts Saturday, Aug. 26, and anthem spot, “Don’t Look Ahead,” previews the passionate, almost tribal energies that define college sports fandom today. Robert Gottlieb, evp of marketing at Fox Sports Group, described the new work to Adweek as “a stake in the ground for Fox Sports’ college football coverage” and a symbol of its new partnership with W+K, which split with longtime client ESPN earlier this year.

“It’s very much for the avid fans,” Gottlieb added. “There’s lots of content, nods to specific traditions and insights that only hardcore fans of these schools and conferences would key into. We understand it, and we live it, too.”

Earlier this year, Fox signed a deal to air Big Ten conference games as one of several new offerings, also including USGA golf and the 2018 soccer World Cup, in an attempt to become a go-to destination for live sports. “This is a continuum of a strategy born four years ago when we launched Fox Sports 1,” Gottlieb said. “We will now be the primary broadcaster for three of the five power conferences.”

The campaign will feature 16 ads beyond the anthem. They include spots centered on two specific games—the September rematch between Texas and USC, and the Thanksgiving weekend Ohio State/Michigan standoff—as well as 14 dedicated to individual teams, with Michael Kelly of Netflix’s House of Cards providing voiceover talent.

All the ads will run nationally, with some of the school-specific work targeted on a regional and time-sensitive basis.

“We wanted to come out of the gate with something that felt big, different and fresh,” said W+K New York creative director Gary Van Dzura, who also worked on many of the agency’s “This Is SportsCenter” ads. He described the tone as “intense, rather than a lovefest for college football.”

Regarding the tagline, “Every Game Is Everything,” Van Dzura said, “[College football] is unique in that every game does matter. One loss, or even one play, can destroy an entire season. You can’t look ahead, because every week is a must-watch game.”

That line of thinking led the creative team to a new idea: “What if we made a spot for every team in the Big Ten and what they represent? The more you target a specific team, the more they share among themselves, and the more traction it gets in that part of the country.”

The agency pitched these ads as a package, and Fox embraced the idea. While the team spots are not yet live, the anthem does include snippets, like the Michigan State logo pocked with arrows and the train representing the Purdue Boilermakers.

“Fox has a shared DNA with Wieden + Kennedy,” Van Dzura told Adweek. “We’re both kind of scrappy. We want to make noise and do things that are different.”


Client: Fox Sports

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy New York
Executive Creative Directors: Karl Lieberman
Creative Directors: Gary Van Dzura
Copywriter: Matt Herman
Art Director: Mina Mikhael
Head of Integrated Production: Nick Setounski
Producer: Kristen Johnson
Associate Producer: Alexey Novikov
Account Director: Mike Welch
Account Supervisor: Matt Angrisani
Account Executive: Bri Akakpo
Strategy: Brian Ritter
Comm. Strategy: Stuart Augustine
Project Manager: Yann Samuels, Alex Doomany
Director of Business Affairs: Patrick O’Donoghue
Business Affairs: Justine Lowe, Lindsey Timko, Brit Fryer, Carolina Hernandez
Traffic: Sonia Bisono, Andy Hume:

Production Company: Pulse Films
Director: Sam Pilling and Ryan Booth
Executive Producer/COO: Davud Karbassioun
Executive Producer: Hillary Rogers
Line Producer: Drew Mardis, Eric Sedorovitz
Director of Photography: Pat Scola and Ryan Booth:

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