ESPN/ABC ":24 to Live"

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Anyone watching the 2004 NBA Playoffs and Finals got to feast on some rump-shaking beats and dazzling visuals in a series of rockin' ESPN/ABC NBA promos out of W+K/NY, featuring the Black Eyed Peas, along with Carlos Santana. Directed by Smuggler's Brian Beletic, the video-like spots show the artists against a flashy shot-clock backdrop performing a remix of the BEP's "Let's Get it Started." Unlike Sportcenter's docu-comedy, or even the arty, quiet humor of the "Without Sports" campaign, the spots are fun and frenzied, the energy dispensing in rapid fire, thanks to the bouncin' hip hop tune and glossy visuals. "The brief said that this isn't your father's NBA," explains W+K/N.Y. art director Jesse Coulter. "We had to capture the essence of the playoffs. The league's changing-it's a flashier game, there are a lot of young players, and there's a more energetic and entertaining kind of basketball." Wieden came up with the ":24 seconds to live" concept, the idea that every second on the shot clock counts. The idea of bringing in a rap or hip hop artist on board flowed naturally from basketball culture, and the celebrity and hype that surrounds it. "A rapper talking about the NBA is not a stretch," Coulter notes. "Just like when a rapper talks about his time to shine, a player has 24 seconds with his teammates to make it happen." Originally, the idea was to have an artist sing an original tune. ESPN marketing director Ashley Smith approached the record labels, but found that producing a new song wouldn't fit budget or schedule. Luck would have it that Interscope marketing VP Tony Seyler suggested a remix of "Let's Get it Started," poised to be the BEP's next single. "When they called me up, I knew that this was the right song." Seyler notes. "It just fits. It's got the energy, the right direction, the right feel." The agency and client agreed, and Wieden sent some talking points and loose lyric guidelines to the band's Will.I.Am, who worked those into the original tune. After some minor adjustments, all parties involved joined up at L.A.'s Record Plant Studios to lay down the final vocals. According to ESPN's Smith, the spot was to air on ESPN for the Playoffs and possibly on ABC for the finals (which it eventually did), so the music had to resonate beyond the younger hip hop set. Enter Carlos Santana, who then contributed his guitar riffs, as well as backup vocals from an L.A. boys' choir. The rockin' mix ostensibly became the 2004 NBA anthem, an instant aural trigger of the year's hoops excitement. And unlike most hookups between the recording industry and advertising, this was one case in which agency, recording industry and client worked in tandem successfully to fulfill their respective needs. "The beautiful thing is that this is actually working for us too," notes Interscope's Seyler. "We've gotten a massive response to the song, unlike commercials with other artists songs we've done in the past, where we find that it doesn't react at radio."
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