Larry Bird and Michael Jordan battle in an instant classic for McDonald's by Leo Burnett Chicago, the winner of that year's USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter with a then-record score of 9.0, signal booster for the catchphrase "Nothing but net" and a standout easily recalled years later.
That's despite another striking Super Bowl XXVII commercial starring Jordan, Nike's "Aerospace Jordan."
Would an overlapping star undermine either ad? "It does rob some of the surprise and excitement from the commercial,'' BBDO's Phil Dusenberry told USA Today before the game:
Nike says it isn't worried. Jordan isn't the only star of the spot, which also features Bugs, Marvin the Martian and Porky Pig, as well as a flock of giant, green Martian chickens. But, says advertising director Scott Bedbury, Nike wouldn't care even if Hanes, another Jordan endorsement, "was pairing him up with Mickey Mouse.'' McDonald's also shrugs it off. "People who wear Nike shoes eat a lot of McDonald's hamburgers,'' says Paul Schrage, chief marketing officer.
McDonald's was right not to worry. "The Showdown" became famous, fueled by its irrepressible stars, as one of the Leo Burnett creatives who made the spot, Jim Ferguson, told NESN years later:
“Larry added the line, 'No dunking.' Then the two took the first two shots (over the backboard and on their knees)," Ferguson added. "After that, it was just editing though Larry didn’t necessarily want to do it that way. When the two of them are in the stands and Larry challenges Michael, Larry was actually trying to figure out if he could really make it off the scoreboard.”
The minute-long cut here is actually a combination of the two ads that aired separately during Super Bowl XXVII, part one in the first half and part two during halftime. McDonald's followed up with a sequel in the next big game ("One Year Later") and an update starring LeBron James and Dwight Howard during pregame coverage of 2010's Super Bowl XLIV.
Director: Joe Pykta, who also directed the LeBron James remake as well as countless Super Bowl ads. Creative director: Cheryl Berman. Copywriter: Jim Ferguson. Art director: Bob Shallcross.
AGENCY: Leo Burnett