MLS Beat Has Ground Zero Grooving

LOS ANGELES – A house party in the Hollywood Hills. A lava lamp sits atop a bar as loud disco music pulses. Supermodels mingle with sports stars, and a big screen TV shows Major League Soccer on ESPN.
That’s the setting for a series of new TV spots promoting MLS programming on ESPN and ESPN2.
The goal of the campaign, from ESPN roster shop Ground Zero in Santa Monica, Calif., is to define Thursday and Friday nights as MLS party nights to the young male target audience, according to agency creative partner Court Crandall.
“One thing we’ve tried to do is show that the sport is cool and relevant,” he said.
The seven executions feature celebrities from the world of music, film and fashion, such as Flea, Jennifer Tilly and Frederique.
In one scene, Tilly tells New Age author Deepak Chopra there’s a phone call from his wife. Chopra, engrossed in a coin game with some soccer players, whispers to Tilly to tell his wife, “I’m not here.”
“It’s kind of a takeoff on the party scenes in Boogie Nights,” Crandall said.
In another spot, bassist Flea tries to get the L.A. Galaxy’s Cobi Jones to see Tampa Bay goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli’s skill in a different light by offering him his dark glasses. Run DMC, creating a rap for L.A.’s Mauricio Cienfuegos, tries to find a word that rhymes with the midfielder’s last name. The Brady Bunch Movie star Christine Taylor avoids Monkee Davy Jones, preferring to discuss a soccer shootout with two players.
The ads close with the line, “ESPN presents MLS party Thursday and Friday nights,” in ’70s-style lettering. Aimed at 18- to 34-year-old males, the spots are airing on ESPN and ESPN2 throughout the season.
The campaign was created by copywriter Steve O’Brien and art director Guy Shelmerdine. Crandall and creative partner Kirk Souder were the creative directors. Todd Phillips, whose film Frat House won best documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, directed.