ESPN, Nissan Return to the Heisman House

Gridiron greats huddle up for fall campaign

Robert Griffin III has an arm like a howitzer and can shoot the eyes off a potato bug at 40 paces. He also runs a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash, making him the fastest quarterback since Michael Vick broke the sound barrier at the 2001 NFL Combine.

For all that, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner isn’t without his shortcomings. As a new spot from Nissan demonstrates, RG3 is an absolute disaster around a pair of hedge clippers, displaying a sloppiness that prompted one scout to question whether the quarterback has the topiary chops to make it in the NFL.

One of six themed executions cooked up for Nissan by CreativeWorks, ESPN’s two-year-old in-house ad unit, the 30-second spot offers a humorous look at the pecking order within the Heisman House. (As the most junior member of the fraternal order of the Heisman, RG3 is charged with doing all the grunt work, serving as the designated gardner and auto detailer.)

ESPN and Nissan first rolled out the Heisman House concept a year ago, and while the fundamentals remain intact, some of the faces have changed. New to this season’s campaign are: former USC quarterback Matt Leinart (2004) Georgia Bulldogs legend Herschel Walker (1982) and Archie Griffin, college football’s only two-time Heisman winner (1974, 1975).

Starring alongside the 12 gridiron greats are actor Sean Astin (he appears in the aptly titled “Rudy” spot) and a stable of 2013 models that includes the 350Z convertible, the Altima and the Pathfinder.

The spots will air shortly before each ESPN Saturday Night Football on ABC broadcast, beginning with the fourth-annual Cowboys Classic game on Sept. 1. The No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide takes on No. 8 Michigan at 8 p.m. in the opener.

A dedicated Nissan Heisman House site will go live earlier that same day.

Nissan in 2011 spent approximately $577.9 million on measured media, of which 27 percent, or $153.2 million, was devoted to sports. Per Nielsen, Nissan is one of the auto category’s biggest investors in sports media, ranking behind only Ford ($263.5 million), Chevrolet ($249.9 million) and Toyota ($218.6 million).

OMD is Nissan’s media agency of record. TBWA\Chiat\Day in Los Angeles collaborated on the spots with ESPN CreativeWorks.