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Fox Sports Cooks Up Epic Promo for FS1

90-second spot will air during MLB All-Star Game

Fox Sports has created a supersized new promo spot designed to get viewers of the 2013 MLB All-Star Game pumped for the launch of what it is calling the “biggest sports network launch in history.”

Shot over a period of 10 days in six locations, the 90-second Fox Sports 1 spot features a roster of high-profile athletes like American League MVP Miguel Cabrera, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, USWNT striker Alex Morgan and Nascar driver Jeff Gordon.

Developed by Fox Sports marketing chief Robert Gottlieb as a means to distill the essence of FS1 down to a minute-and-a-half of exhilarating, hard-hitting action, the promo will premiere in the fifth inning of the All-Star Game, which airs on July 16—a little more than a month before the new network goes live in the channel position now occupied by Speed.

As with most national MLB coverage, ratings for the All-Star Game have declined in recent years. That said, the exhibition is still likely to be the most-watched summer sporting event—if the game is close, the spot has the potential to reach as many as 15 million viewers.

Directed by rap/pop music video lenser Joseph Khan (“Waking Up in Vegas,” Katy Perry; “Toxic,” Britney Spears; “Protect Ya Neck,” Wu-Tang Clan), the FS1 promo ping-pongs between a number of iconic sports venues. Morgan celebrates with her teammates in the rain at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., while Willis puts the hurt on Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco in a [faux] snow-blown L.A. Coliseum. 

With Jeff Cronenweth signed on as director of photography—his most notable credits include David Fincher’s The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—the promo is at once a bruising chiaroscuro of tough breaks and big hits and a celebration of the joy of winning the big one.

Noting that the spot shifts between vastly different tempos, Gottlieb said the front end is “slow, ethereal, dreamlike,” while the back half “is kind of raucous; it’s a real kick in the stomach.”

The contrast between the opening seconds of the spot, which as Gottlieb characterized it, is the “get beat up, knocked down and rammed into the wall” prologue to the inevitable redemption of the latter half, is a reminder that sacrifice is the price of victory. It also makes the celebration capper that much more “fun”—a word that carries a lot of weight at Fox Sports.

“An important part of our brand position is, hey, sports is ultimately about fun,” Gottlieb said. “There’s the fun of the buzzer beater, the fun of fourth-and-one in the snow. Sports is fun and we’re the guys that make it more fun than anyone else.”

The music for the spot is an unexpected, but inspired, choice. Foregoing hip-hop swagger or the anthemic roar of a power chord, the promo plays out to a retooled version of the old standard, “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

Not only does the song speak to the narrative action within the promo itself, but as Gottlieb acknowledged, it also functions as a playful elbow to the ribs of FS1’s competitors. “It’s definitely a declaration that there are brighter days ahead for sports fans,” Gottlieb laughed. “And that’s part of what we wanted to get across with this [clip]. We’re more colorful, more vibrant, more freewheeling than the other guys. We’ve got a lot of charisma, a lot of big personalities, and we’re much more fun. That’s what Fox Sports is all about.”

Fans will be able to judge if FS1 merits all the hyperbole when the network launches on August 17. If nothing else, Gottlieb is doing everything possible to get as many proverbial fannies in the seats for the big reveal.

“We have spent two weeks shooting a 90-second commercial,” Khan said. “If you expand that out to, like, an hour-and-a-half, we would be shooting for a year-and-a-half on a movie. Most movies are shot in, like, three months.”

Along with the expenses associated with shooting the promo, the effort to get sports fans pumped for the dawn of FS1 will cost Fox approximately $1.8 million in ad sales revenue. According to media buyers, a 30-second spot in this year’s MLB All-Star Game cost around $600,000 a pop, slightly higher than the 2012 rate.

All ad inventory is sold out.

After the spot premieres, shorter versions will appear on Fox and across other TV outlets. And no, you won’t see it pop up on a certain rival network’s air. “I don’t think you’ll see it on ESPN,” Gottlieb said. “They’re pretty good at walling off their air to competitors.”

While ESPN generally has acknowledged that it is not taking the FS1 threat lightly, at least one Walt Disney Co. higher-up is dismissive of the startup’s prospects. In May, Disney chief financial officer Jay Rasulo predicted that anyone who tries to go toe-to-toe with ESPN “will spend a lot of money…to wind up a distant No. 2.”

A final cut was not available for screening at press time. (“We’ll be done nine minutes before it’s set to air,” Gottlieb joked.)

The 2013 MLB All-Star Game will air live from New York’s Citi Field on Tuesday, July 16, at 7:30 p.m. EDT. The 84th edition of baseball’s mid-summer showcase marks the last for Fox broadcaster Tim McCarver, who will be joined in the booth by his partner of 18 seasons, Joe Buck. Ken Rosenthal will report from around the field.

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