ESPN’s New Animated Ads Feature an All-Star Cast of College Football Coaches and Mascots

72andSunny launches 'Who's In?' for 2017

The spots star more than a dozen current and former gridiron personalities.

A few weeks after Fox Sports and Wieden + Kennedy cast the Big Ten Conference as a battle to the death, ESPN has launched the latest extension in its “Who’s In?” campaign promoting another year of winner-take-all college football.

The new work by ESPN’s in-house team and its creative agency 72andSunny New York is notable for marking the first time the network has run an entirely animated series of spots. Dozens of meticulously modeled coaches, mascots and alumni star in these ads, which take place in a scale model of Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the site of 2018’s CFP National Championship game.

We’ll let Clemson’s Dabo Swinney take it away in the anthem ad “Fight to the Finish.”

“As we continue to build the ‘Who’s In?’ brand, we continue to explore unique ways to tell our story—this year’s kickoff spots were a reflection of that,” said ESPN vp of sports marketing Emeka Ofodile.

He added, “This project represented several firsts for us, specifically in moving from a traditional live-action execution to an all-animated world. In doing so we wanted to ensure we remained authentic to the sport of college football and the love affair we have with it, but also create a unique visual narrative that would connect with the more casual fan.”

The above ad will air on ABC and ESPN. Below is an SEC-specific variation, set to run only on the SEC Network, in which Alabama’s Nick Saban and 13 other careless drivers threaten to overwhelm TV personality Paul Finebaum.

A list of the personalities in the kickoff alone includes Swinney, Saban, Georgia’s Herschel Walker, Charles Woodson of Michigan, Jimbo Fisher of Florida State, Washington’s Chris Petersen and a couple of “generic fan” stand-ins—not to mention all the mascots we missed.

But as colorful as the campaign is, one can only truly appreciate the work that went into the ads after watching this brief behind-the-scenes clip.

The transition from concept to execution is enough to make you dizzy.

“I give a ton of credit to the ESPN marketing team, agency, artists and animators,” said Ofodile. “There were a lot of hours, hard work, and painstaking attention to detail invested in this project. It was a true fight to the finish, which seems only fitting because getting to the College Football Playoff is nothing short of that.”

Earlier this month, ESPN signed Droga5 as its new creative lead on SportsCenter and network brand. That agency’s first work should debut later this year.


Agency: 72andSunny New York
Client: ESPN
Campaign: “A Fight to the Finish”

Senior VP, Sports Marketing: Rob Temple
VP, Sports Marketing: Emeka Ofodile
Director, Sports Marketing: Pallav Tamaskar
Manager, Sports Marketing: Willis Hulings
Associate Manager, Sports Marketing: Margaret Davis
Coordinator, Sports Marketing: Alexa Dettelbach
Coordinator, Sports Marketing: Sarah Connors

72andSunny New York
Executive Creative Director: Bryan Rowles
Creative Director: Adolfo Alcala
Creative Director: Brandon Pierce
Senior Designer: Rob McQueen
Senior Writer: Matt Vitou
Group Strategy Director: Anibal Casso
Jr Strategist: Chane Rennie
Managing Director: James Townsend
Brand Director: Shannon Coletti
Brand Manager: Chelsea Kim
Director of Production: Lora Schulson
Executive Producer: Kyle Wright
Partnerships and Legal Manager: Marissa Burnett

Production Company: Psyop
Director: Todd Mueller
Producer: Adriane Scott-Kemp
VFX supervisor / 2D lead: Lane Jolly
Stop Motion Animation: Screen Novelties
Producer: Chris Finnegan
Animation Supervisor: Kelly Mazurowski
DP: Eric Adkins