IDEA: Sports-cap company New Era had a big hit last year with Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski trash-talking about the Yankees and Red Sox. For an encore, agency The Brooklyn Brothers decided to do another episodic ad series about another rivalry—the Cubs and White Sox. "We think Chicago is going to be the baseball story of this year," said agency co-founder Guy Barnett. "Ozzie Guillen is gone from the White Sox, and Robin Ventura is stepping in. And you've got the magnificent history of the Cubs and their abject failure to win a World Series for 107 years. It's perhaps even more of a national story than Red Sox-Yankees." The agency found two Chicago actors perfect for the campaign, both of whom, like last year, are NBC sitcom stars—Nick Offerman from Parks and Recreation, a Minooka, Ill., native and lifelong Cubs fan; and Craig Robinson from The Office, a White Sox fan born and raised on the South Side. A series of ads set in a Chicago bar—the first broke late last week—will feature the pair locked in an epic battle of insults, each defending his own team while vigorously disparaging the other's.
COPYWRITING: To get the same level of writing as last year (writers from The Office did those scripts), the agency partnered with Funny Or Die's new commercials division, Gifted Youth, to write and produce the new spots. "The last Cub to throw a no-hitter was your pitching machine," Robinson says in the first ad. Offerman replies: "Even our handsomely quaffed ex-governor wouldn't try to sell a White Sox seat." Both actors are almost expressionless as they bore holes in each other's pride. "As Craig described it, it's a deadpan-off," said Barnett. Plenty of scripted material was used, but the actors improvised, too. "Both of them are very inventive comedians," said Barnett. "You just try, when you're editing, to pull the best pieces out."
ART DIRECTION: Exteriors for the first spot were filmed in Hoboken, N.J. For future spots, the agency plans to shoot a different bar exterior in Chicago. All of the interiors were shot on a bar set on a soundstage in Los Angeles that was dressed as a neighborhood watering hole. (The bar is identified as The Dividing Line. It's a fictional place, "but hopefully someone will turn it into a real bar," said Barnett.) The setting seemed appropriate for the characters. "These are everyday guys who hang out in bars to watch games, regardless of their celebrity status," said Barnett. "Obviously with Alec and John it's a little more exalted company. We wanted the art direction and the setting to really suit the personality of the guys." The New Era caps are more prominent this year, too—it seemed natural for these characters to be wearing them.
FILMING: While last year's spots were shot by famed commercial director Bryan Buckley, the new ones were done by up-and-coming Funny Or Die director Scott Gairdner. He brought "a youthful enthusiasm," said Barnett, and having worked on viral spots, knew how to create "something that becomes very watchable over time."
TALENT: "It was fantastic watching them work—very different from Alec and John," Barnett said. "These guys have an equal amount of talent but an incredibly different execution style—very relaxed, low key, but quite biting at times."
SOUND: The sound is atmospheric noise from the bar, with some callouts from the game on TV.
MEDIA: Two more ads will break during the season, running on local sports nets, national cable and online. Obviously, they should be a hit in the Windy City in particular. "What I really hope is that they'll love the spotlight on them," Barnett said of Chicagoans. "These actors are genuine fans of these teams. Hopefully they'll be treated as lauded sons."
Client: New Era
Agency: The Brooklyn Brothers
Production Company: Gifted Youth
Director: Scott Gairdner
Director of Photography: Dave Jones
Edit House: NO6
Executive Producer: Toni Lipari
Producer: Evan Meeker
Editor: Jason Macdonald and Justin Quagliata
VFX: Ed Skupeen
Graphics: Transistor Studios