The Sleep-Deprived Face of Live SportsCenter

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ESPN's SportsCenter's becoming a live show August 11, and they've got a program coordinator, 25-year-old Steve Braband, to tell you all about it.

Until the countdown on the big clock around his neck reaches zero, Braband will be, to borrow a Berman-ism, "rumblin', stumblin', bumblin'" in a series of 20-25 live promos per day, an idea conceived by Wieden + Kennedy, New York and shot by the ESPN production team--true reality advertising.

"The idea the team came up with was to find a real ESPN employee, someone we felt represented the production side, someone who needed to have the love of sports and irreverence," says Derek Barnes, creative director of ESPN at Wieden + Kennedy, New York. Braband, according to Barnes, lives in a house with four other ESPN employees, plays pool and backyard games and "stood out as the prototypical ESPN employee."

Even the most dedicated ESPN employee would suffer a breakdown during more than two weeks if forced to go around the clock on the hour, so the media buy has given Braband time to sleep most nights. But it isn't just Braband that'll need the rest. "It's not just him, there's an army following him around," Barnes says.

Wieden + Kennedy copywriter Andy Ferguson and art director Bekah Sirrine are in Bristol, CT, at ESPN HQ with Braband, along with another writer doing interactive pieces, a producer and an account person. W+K partnered with production company East Pleasant, but the ESPN crews who'll be doing live SportsCenter are toning up for their debut on Braband and doing the actual shooting. "It's been a pretty unconventional marriage between agency and client in that respect," Barnes says.

Of course, there's the potential Braband will flame out in a spectacular manner due to the constant, unrelenting pressure to perform and exhaustive nature of live television. And that's part of the reason to pay attention. (A running repository of the spots can be found on ESPN's site.) But so far, so good. "All of [the spots] have a natural roughness to them in that they're not scripted," Barnes says. Barnes says a recent standout spot had Braband, a Pittsburgh native, playing foosball with Steeler great Kordell Steawart. "He was especially tongue tied in that one. That's what's great about that campaign, he's so likable. It really is just this guy out there in the spotlight, living his life on the camera."
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