W+K Waits ’til This Year for Sox Tribute

LOS ANGELES Long-suffering generations of Boston Red Sox fans, denied a World Series victory since 1918, are memorialized in a Nike spot by independent Wieden + Kennedy that broke after the team’s pennant victory Wednesday.

Through a series of sentimental, sepia-toned dissolves, the commercial shows four seats and a family of fans from the early 20th century to modern times, fading to black with the Nike “Just do it” tagline.

The Portland, Ore., agency had to stretch its own patience. “We actually shot this spot to run last year,” said Mike Byrne, creative director at W+K. “When [Boston pitcher Tim] Wakefield lost [last year], it kind of hurt us.”

It was then, when the New York Yankees beat Boston in the 2003 American League Championship Series, that Byrne and co-creative director Hal Curtis hired RSA director Jake Scott to re-create a section of front-row boxes at Boston’s Fenway Park in an empty hangar at the Santa Monica [Calif.] Airport.

“It was quite a production feat,” recalled Curtis. “We shot and edited it in one day, the extras going through all those changes in wardrobe and makeup. Jake had assembled the team and everyone was into it. The prop guy had photographic references to Fenway we used. As we were undergoing the stress and pressure of getting the spot done in time, the crew was watching the game between shots and during editing.”

Curtis said that no Nike spot was constructed to celebrate a too-typical Yankees victory, but that “we, collectively with Nike, keep our eyes open for opportunities.” W+K produced Nike spots about strikes in the National Hockey League (ice in a rink melting to the concrete), Major League Baseball (empty stadiums) and the National Basketball Association. That latter campaign took creative shape as a sarcastic parody of the NBA tagline (“It’s Fan-tastic!”) by showing Samuel L. Jackson lauding a game of H-O-R-S-E, Dyan Cannon watching an over-40 grunt fest and Spike Lee motor-mouthing about a pop-a-shot contest at a local bar.

Byrne said the Red Sox spot was intended to air tomorrow during the first game of the World Series, and that it would, along with the “Michael Vick Experience” ads. But aware of the excitement of this week’s pennant victory, the agency rushed the spot to stations in time to air after the series concluded.

Is Nike choosing sides? “[The Sox ad] will run more in the Boston market,” Byrne said. “The spot comments on something unique.”