Star Wars Break Out at ESPN

NEW YORK A slew of cultural icons will be part of ESPN SportsCenter‘s next TV campaign, including tennis star Andy Roddick, spelling bee champion David Tidmarsh and beings from a galaxy far, far away.

The campaign, via Wieden + Kennedy in New York, continues the mocumentary-style attitude that has defined Bristol, Conn.-based ESPN’s SportsCenter efforts, with neither athlete nor in-house talent taking themselves too seriously.

There will be seven new spots in all, which will begin to break this week and run through year’s end on ESPN and sibling networks, including ABC. ESPN, which is coming off its 25th anniversary “Year of the Fan” effort, spent $45 million on media in 2003 and more than $22 million through July, per TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Roddick is featured in two spots. In “Nickname,” he tries to find out why SportsCenter anchors no longer call him “A-Rod” (Hint: that’s also the nickname of New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez). In “Idle Hands,” Roddick passes time outside an office at the SportsCenter campus with a few friends, among them ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt and the University of Massachusetts’ Minuteman mascot.

SportsCenter‘s new HD technology is the focus of “Space Anchors,” which sees ESPN hiring a more tech-oriented staff to run the programming, including Star Wars stars C3P0, R2D2, Darth Vader, Chewbacca and a Storm Trooper. Van Pelt needs help in “Spelling Bee” when he gets stuck on the spelling of an athlete’s name. Fortunately, National Spelling Bee champ David Tidmarsh is there to save the day.

Other spots include “Accent,” in which soccer star Heather Mitts and SportsCenter‘s Linda Cohn are enthralled with boxer Lennox Lewis’ British accent; and “Expansion Team,” which finds ESPN putting some of its anchors into an expansion draft to help recent arrival ESPN Deportes add to a talent roster of Fernando Palomo, Michele LaFountain and Ciro Procuna.

“This campaign will always have life because it lives off the changes that are happening around us,” said Lee Ann Daly, evp of marketing. “The coolest thing is that we have this incredible cast of cultural heroes helping to keep it fresh and creative.”