ESPN Touts ‘Monday Night Football’

NEW YORK As the National Football League season begins, ESPN today launched a new integrated campaign from independent Wieden + Kennedy here centered on its Monday Night Football franchise.

The campaign, to be aired primarily on ESPN and ABC, consists of seven commercials and an anthem spot that ran during pre-season games with players such as the New Orleans Saints’ Reggie Bush, Cincinnati Bengals’ Chad Johnson and San Diego Chargers’ Antonio Gates humming the horn-heavy theme to Monday Night Football.

In the 30-second “Bavaro,” a family is shown watching the New York Giants versus the San Francisco Giants in a 1986 game. In a famous sequence, Mark Bavaro of the Giants caught a pass and ran downfield before finally being taken down by seven members of the opposing team. As a voiceover talks about remembering that play, the father watching the game attempts to re-enact the feat, complete with children flying and the action slowing to a Matrix-like pause. The narrator says, “Everything was going great until you threw your back out and almost passed out from the pain?” It ends with the thought that when viewers watch MNF, everything will be better because it won’t hurt when they breathe.

“What we’re really playing off of are the milestones and iconic moments of Monday Night Football that fans remember,” said Scott Parker, senior director of marketing, NFL, in New York. “Not only the game moments but also who they were with, how they felt and the rituals that accompany viewing.”

On the interactive side, plans are under way to set up a method for fans to upload video of themselves re-enacting their favorite MNF moments. The best will then be shown during games. In addition, interactive banners will display trivia questions related to MNF games from the past.

Print, in publications such as ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, will reflect the broadcast, with one ad asking if people remember where they were when the Saints made their post-Katrina return to the New Orleans Superdome. There will also be radio and out of home in cities with particularly strong football constituencies such as Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Dallas. Spending was undisclosed.

This is the second year ESPN is using “Is it Monday yet?” as an advertising theme. “We felt it was something we wanted to continue. The first series celebrated the significance of Monday night, in the context of the seven-day week,” said Derek Barnes, cd at W+K, New York. “This year we chose to celebrate it in a historic context. The spots are all about remembering big Monday night games that the whole country experienced together.”

MNF moved to ESPN from ABC last year after 36 years. Walt Disney Co. owns both channels.

The NFL season begins on Thursday with New Orleans at Indianapolis, while ESPN’s pro slate kicks off next Monday with two games: Baltimore at Cincinnati, followed by Arizona at San Francisco.