After reliving the 1990s through the “The Last Dance,” ESPN is now set to shine a light on its 25-year old “This is SportsCenter” ad campaign.
The network will air three specials devoted to the mockumentary ad campaign on May 24 hosted by Elle Duncan and Steve Levy.
Inspired by the comedic film “This is Spinal Tap,” the campaign debuted in 1995. Since then, “This is SportsCenter” has featured a who’s who’s of athletes and ESPN anchors, ranging from LeBron James, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, and Henrik Lundqvist to Serena Williams, Aaron Judge, Derek Jeter, and the late Kobe Bryant.
The first one-hour special, “The Best of This is SportsCenter: 25 Years and Counting,” will chronicle the campaign’s history. It will feature some of the funniest spots with anchors like Duncan, Levy, Scott Van Pelt, and the late Stuart Scott. ESPN will follow with another one-hour special featuring superstar athletes who’ve appeared in the ads.
Finally, a half-hour special will feature “Mascot Mayhem,” highlighting appearances by college mascots such as the Oregon Duck and Rutgers Scarlet Knight. The Duck was shown staring forlornly at real ducks swimming outside its office cubicle. The Scarlet Knight, meanwhile, was rudely shoved by WWE wrestler Becky Lynch as she strode down the hallway.
ESPN has aired 411 spots throughout the campaign, which take a humorous peek inside the network’s Bristol, Conn., campus. Scott appeared in the most spots with 83.
The iconic campaign helped establish ESPN’s hip image in the 1990s. Ad agency Wieden & Kennedy created the campaign from 1995 to 2017. In 2018, ESPN moved creative duties in-house. With no live sports, ESPN is smart to tap into more 90’s nostalgia, especially with one of the most beloved ad campaigns ever, according to Ernest Lupinacci, a former copywriter at Wieden & Kennedy.
“The campaign said, ‘we get you as a consumer.’ If you think these ads are funny, smart, and inside sports, wait till you watch the show,” said Lupinacci. “The ads were for a show: ‘SportsCenter.’ But it had a halo effect of building the ESPN brand.”