Buffalo Wild Wings declares ‘sports live on’ during coronavirus with user-generated feel-good clips

The Martin Agency quickly gathered videos of Instagrammers, even a woman juggling a roll of toilet paper with her feet

Published On
Mar 24, 2020

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Buffalo Wild Wings was forced to scrap its March Madness-themed campaign when the coronavirus pandemic canceled the annual college basketball tournament, leaving it and other sports-themed marketers without a signature event to market around. Now, with ad shoots on hold as agencies and their clients are working from home, the brand is out with a quickly generated video celebrating people around the world showing off their sporty moves while staying home.

The ‘Sports Live On’ video went live Monday, a few days after two sports fans from The Martin Agency, Art Director Dustin Dodd and Copywriter Graham Unterberger, first tossed around the idea.

“People are taking a pretty scary situation, an isolated situation,” Unterberger said Monday, and “they’re creating new ways to keep their passion for sports alive.” 

The 30-second video includes some fun basketball shots and kids showcasing unique ways to practice hockey at home. There is also a clip from Melody Donchet, who has racked up thousands of views of herself juggling a roll of toilet paper with her feet.

Copy near the end of the ad reads “even when sports aren’t on, sport lives on,” before the Buffalo Wild Wings logo and name flash on the screen. 

“Everyone’s sort of scrambling, trying to figure out what to do,” says Mike Kelley, VP and group planning director at the Martin Agency, who said Dodd and Unterberger were briefed on the project on March 18 and presented their first take on March 19. “We couldn’t just wait until sports are back.”

Once the client approved the idea and the agency got the approval of the people who posted the clips on Instagram, final edits were made in time for the Monday release. The clips were pulled from recent Instagram posts. Some highlights from an earlier edit got bumped for newer posts, the team from The Martin Agency said. All of the work was done remotely, with the agency’s people working from their homes in the Richmond, Virginia, area. Editing was handled by Ben Suenaga, editor/owner of New York-based Friendshop, who has previously worked on Buffalo Wild Wings.

The ad doesn’t promote the chain beyond the logo at the end. It does not hype B-Dubs’ takeout or delivery options. 

“We’re a brand that connects people over their shared love of sports,” Buffalo Wild Wings Chief Marketing Officer Seth Freeman said in a statement. “And even though sports aren’t on TV, they’re still playing out in living rooms across the globe. So it was only fitting that we acknowledge them. And in doing so, hopefully make fans feel a little more connected.”

Jerry Hoak, the Martin Agency’s executive creative director, said they “lit a fire” to get the idea approved quickly, knowing other brands would be thinking up their own ways to celebrate sport in the absence of sporting events. Indeed, on Saturday, Nike first posted its swoosh with the words “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the world.” Nike's idea, Hoak notes, leans on athletes, while the Buffalo Wild Wings campaign is about the fans.

The team at The Martin Agency says that while it felt different completely handling a campaign from home, they have quickly adjusted to a life without in-person meetings, resorting to more calls, texts and video chats. 

“Everybody’s creativity is just exploding,” says Hoak. “It sucks not being together in person but it’s been amazing seeing what everybody’s capable of doing at home.”

The ad debuted on Monday, as USA Today reported that International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound has said the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will be postponed, making the idea of sports at home even more timely.

Kristen Cavallo, CEO of the Martin Agency, shared the clip on Twitter, writing: “The Olympics may be in question, but sports will never be.”