Nerdy Genius Stars in Ads for ESPN Web Site
LOS ANGELES–Ground Zero introduces a character called “Netboy” in its first ads for ESPN SportsZone, the all-sports cable network’s online venture.
A cross between a computer nerd and a sports genius, Netboy interacts with sports legends such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Plunket and Roger Craig, as well as ESPN on-air personalities such as Chris Meyers, in the humorous eight-spot TV campaign that broke last week on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN News. Netboy has also been integrated into the Internet site itself, at www.espn.com, where he appears on screen in about 20 different incarnations to offer information about upcoming events.
“We wanted to have some fun with the fact that ESPN was bringing sports to the Internet, a place where people were more familiar with the term ‘FTP transfer’ than ‘sac fly,'” said Court Crandall, a creative partner at Santa Monica, Calif.-based Ground Zero. “We made a conscious effort to have the commercials complement the existing brand image work for ESPN. We thought it was imperative that the viewer perceive SportsZone not as a separate entity, but as another wing in the ESPN building.”
In one of the spots, Abdul-Jabbar and Plunket are hanging out in Netboy’s cluttered ESPN office, showing each other their many awards. Unimpressed by the achievements of the former basketball star and football great, computer-obsessed Netboy boasts, “Best use of Java to track live game action within a graphic user interface, thank you very much,” stunning the two into a momentary silence. Plunket then picks up his Heisman trophy and says to Jabbar, “So anyway. Stanford. 1970.”
Another spot shows pro baseball players Tony Clark and Jose Cruz Jr. vying to make it into Netboy’s SportsZone midweek matchup critique. Aware of Netboy’s fondness for Star Trek, they offer him Chekov paraphernalia–including Chekov himself.
Each spot uses the equation ESPN + Netboy = ESPN SportsZone and gives the Web site address.
Ground Zero’s Mike Burdick was the copywriter and Pat Harris handled art direction. Crandall and creative partner Kirk Souder served as co-creative directors. Baker Smith of Tate & Partners, Santa Monica, Calif., directed the campaign.
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