They Shoot, They Score

Forget basketball. Forget football. And, yes, forget soccer. No sport has the intense drama, the Olympian skill, the infectious, in-your-face athleticism of Shelfball, a sport created by a bored art director and copywriter at Wieden + Kennedy in New York. Their lassitude led not only to a pastime that will surely sweep the globe, but also to the agency’s scoring the ESPN creative account.

Shelfball’s putative progenitors, Kevin Proudfoot, the copywriter, and Kim Schoen, the art director, serve as its commissioners, “but only by default,” says ESPN rep Brian Kaplan, adding that credit for the game must go to “many people at Wieden + Kennedy.” Nevertheless, Proudfoot and Schoen have been playing it in their office since 1999 and pitched it to ESPN last April at a client meeting to win the account.

As a sport, Shelfball is a bit of a paradox. As evidenced by its codified rules, the game is both simple (all one needs is a ball and a bookshelf with at least two shelves) and complex (its rules on “stealing” are rivaled only by the Talmud in their opacity).

Six Shelfball TV spots running now aim to tap into widespread efforts to combat workplace ennui. ESPN has the stats to back up its theories on work and play: According to a nationwide survey conducted on behalf of the sports network, seven out of ten respondents revealed that they engage in some sort of home-grown office game during their day.

“It’s really been successful for us in terms of getting noticed,” said Kaplan, who offered to set up a Shoptalk vs. Wieden + Kennedy Shelfball tournament.