ESPN Revs Up New Spots for AARP

Racer Jeff Gordon Preps for Life After Nascar

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ESPN's in-house creative unit is revving up a new campaign for AARP designed to help reach viewers who aren't quite ready to call it a day.

The sports net's CreativeWorks team has developed a pair of new spots in which ESPN personality Kenny Mayne takes retiring Nascar driver Jeff Gordon under his wing as the four-time Sprint Cup champ prepares to leave racing behind.

Both spots end with Mr. Mayne chiding the fire-suited driver that "playtime is over." The custom spots are immediately followed by a 15-second AARP ad extolling the virtues and benefits of membership.

While the CreativeWorks spots are brief, they're meant to pack in as much of Mr. Mayne's signature drollery as is possible. The ESPN mainstay gets a lot of mileage out of Mr. Gordon's profession, mocking him for his workplace apparel and the "whole silly thing where you drive in circles."

The AARP spots will debut on Monday, June 29, and will air through mid-September.

While Mr. Gordon is younger than your average retiree—he'll turn 44 in August, making him eligible to join AARP in summer 2021—he's the very embodiment of the sort of people the organization is trying to reach. (For one thing, he has studiously avoided using the word "retirement," which is in keeping with AARP's embrace of the cloaking acronym.)

"Their goal was to get to the younger crowd, people who are not quite in their late 40s," said Carrie Brzezinski, VP-marketing solutions for ESPN CreativeWorks. "It's a way to get them thinking about benefits of AARP ahead of time, while changing their perception of the brand by making it relevant to their interests."

Mr. Gordon's affiliation with AARP goes back to the 2011 Nascar season, when the organization and its "Drive to End Hunger" campaign sponsored his No. 24 Chevrolet SS in six Sprint Cup races. This marked Nascar's first cause-related primary sponsorship.

"AARP and Jeff Gordon share a commitment to real social change, from tackling senior hunger to helping people re-imagine their lives," said Barbara Shipley, AARP senior VP, brand integration. "Yes, these can be serious issues, but there's a lot to be said for changing the world through humor."

Year-to-date, AARP has invested $50.9 million in TV spend, per estimates. ESPN lays claim to 5% of that total, as AARP has ponied up for some $2.64 million for airtime on the network since the year began.

"SportsCenter" alone accounts for more than half of AARP's ESPN spend ($1.27 million), and is the organization's third-largest individual program buy behind The Weather Channel's "Weather Center Live" and CBS' "The Price is Right."

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