Kim Schoen & Kevin Proudfoot

The team behind ESPN's "Without Sports" campaign.

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Schoen: "When we work together, we're both geared toward making things human."
On the surface, Kim Schoen and Kevin Proudfoot, the minds behind ESPN's ubiquitous "Without Sports" campaign, don't seem a likely pairing. "Kevin's a really easygoing guy and I think I'm more hyper," says Schoen, a tall dramatic-looking woman in black leather pants. The ACD/AD studied communications at Boston University and has worked previously at FCB/S.F., on campaigns for Dockers and Levi's, and has even made it into Playboy -- featured for advertising she did for Harley-Davidson Women. In her spare time she plays tennis and practices photography. "Compartments," her life-size photo installation themed around a Manhattan street and partly funded by a Wieden grant, appeared in a solo show at the National Arts Gallery in 2001. The more sedate, schoolboyish copywriter Proudfoot, with his encyclopedic knowledge of all things sports, is every bit the athletic aficionado you'd expect from a Wieden player. He's also a University of Richmond social psychology grad who was all set to begin a Ph.D. program at the University of Texas, but turned back on the ride over and enrolled at VCU's Adcenter instead. That led to an internship at Wieden in Portland and a brief stint at The Martin Agency, after which he finally settled down at Wieden's New York outpost.

ESPN "Gathering"
"Kim is fiery, really high energy," observes W+K CD Ty Montague. "She's outspoken, verbal, driven. Kevin's the slightly quieter one, but equally focused, sort of an old soul, beyond his years. They're very different people, but in some senses they wind up complementing one another perfectly." It helps that underneath the yin-yang, there resonates a likeminded philosophy that has informed much of the duo's projects together. Although they're not a permanent coupling -- at Wieden teams shift around -- they've also partnered on the animated ESPN 2001 Winter X Games campaign, which cleverly illustrated the "Safety First" tag through whimsical-turned-morbid scenes of cheery 2-D animals getting decapitated by scissors or shredded on snowbikes; ESPN hockey promos showcasing "alternative" uses for the Stanley Cup -- as a baby bath or a Jell-O mold; and a round for the WNBA juxtaposing footage of female pros against sorry male players.

"When we work together, we're both geared toward making things human," Schoen notes. "I feel like when I work with Kevin it's always rooted in a truth about people. It's never slapstick for slapstick's sake or wacky for wacky's sake. I think we both have a commitment to making advertising that is more grounded in people, the things people care about, that they think are funny." That approach has resounded most boldly in the "Without Sports" campaign (see p. 26) on which Schoen and Proudfoot collaborated for nearly a year. Their sensibilities led them to a wide-reaching and possibly long-running torchbearer to the agency's landmark SportsCenter work. "It's been a good thing that we're both very interested in remaining true to things that exist," notes Proudfoot. "Especially in this campaign, where we're trying to present all these instances in culture where sports plays a role, how it touches you. Those are all very observational things." The huge branding effort manages to seamlessly incorporate various techniques -- slick music video, animation, docu-comedy, classic cinema -- via a broad range of directorial talent to portray the pervasive intersections of sports and people's lives.

ESPN "Evolution"
"I think people connect with these because they stay true to the emotions they have while watching or playing sports," says Schoen. "They're universal feelings. We didn't try to dress them up too much."

"Or impose too much of ourselves, impose a creative thing on top of them," continues Proudfoot. "These things exist as pieces of what is already out there. We just had to condense them into film or paper."

"One of the things we talk about at Wieden + Kennedy is letting individuals find their own voice," says CD Todd Waterbury. "Kim and Kevin have both done that, but compared to many creatives, the way they deliver their voice is really driven by their interest in the assignment. They tend to walk in completely open to what form something can take; their approach is not imported wholesale."

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