Y&R Praises Student-Athletes in NCAA PSAs

LOS ANGELES WPP Group’s Young & Rubicam has created four TV spots for the National Collegiate Athletic Association that will play throughout the college basketball season. The campaign breaks this week as PSAs, the agency said.

The athletes and their schools are unidentified in the creative but represent “real students who embody the values of the NCAA,” said Penny Baldwin, president and CEO of the San Francisco shop. Using uniform black-and-white split screens, the Pam Thomas-directed 30-second ads demonstrate sports action on the left and students on the right, while the voiceover talks about the student-athletes leading dual lives. The taglines, reinforcing last year’s campaign theme, emphasize the likelihood of “going pro” in non-sports professions.

“The NCAA has for years been in a situation where they’ve been seen as a policeman,” said Paul Hastings, Y&R account managing director. “However, their main mission is to be there for the student athlete. We’ve worked closely with them on overall themes to elevate the concept of athletics and academics and the two sides coming together.”

Tom Peck, Y&R group creative director, said athletes were cast from up and down the West Coast. “There’s a lot of negative publicity about athletes right now,” Peck said. “So we wanted to communicate the positive message of the 360,000 student-athletes whose stories go unheard.”

Peck said that the spots would get “millions of dollars of airplay” during the regular season as well as on NCAA tournament and Final Four games on ESPN and CBS.