Best of 2020 No. 26: A young Kenny Mayne 'predicts' Michael Jordan documentary 'The Last Dance' in State Farm's retro ESPN integration

The sportscaster appears prophetic in ad from ESPN CreativeWorks that applied VFX tech to classic footage

Published On
Apr 22, 2020

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The Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance” was prime pandemic viewing, and State Farm was one of just four sponsors. To celebrate His Airness and the Bulls, ESPN’s in-house agency CreativeWorks turned SportsCenter anchor Kenny Mayne into Nostradamus. With deepfake-like tech and new audio, the team created what appeared to be a SportsCenter segment from the late '90s showing a much-younger Mayne predicting that the Bulls' greatness would lead to the very documentary viewers were watching. The spot hit the zeitgeist at just the right time and the VFX were believable enough to fool veteran fans.

Original story:

As one of four presenting sponsors of ESPN's highly anticipated Michael Jordan documentary, "The Last Dance," State Farm teamed with ESPN CreativeWorks, the network’s in-house creative agency, to create a custom ad featuring 60-year-old ESPN personality Kenny Mayne when he was still in his thirties. The retro ad makes the younger Mayne appear prophetic and depicts him him sitting at a 1998-era SportsCenter anchor desk talking about the Bulls documentary that will hit 22 years later. 

ESPN CreativeWorks achieved the effect by superimposing video footage of Mayne's current mouth atop archival footage of him from decades ago—what some have described as "deepfake" technology. It's a clever solution given that the pandemic has put commercial productions on hold for the time being. The ad generated plenty of buzz when it aired during Sunday's episode of the docuseries. 

State Farm is also sponsoring a show that will air after each episode and stream on various social digital channels, including Facebook and the ESPN app, featuring ESPN personalities Jalen Rose and David Jacoby. Facebook’s involvement also includes a separate pre- and post-episode show hosted by ESPN’s Sarah Spain that will air on Facebook Live.

State Farm’s involvement comes as it deals with being shut out of other sports media opportunities, including NBA games in which it is normally a heavy advertiser. A spokeswoman for the insurer in a statement said the “Last Dance” sponsorship “had been planned all along.” But she added that “we have made adjustments to our inventory due to major sports and events cancellations and closures, and the added media support we are now giving to 'The Last Dance’ is an example of that.”

Read more here about ESPN's overall sponsorship plans for "The Last Dance."