Superstars, superstition and Smith*

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In 2009, the newest addition to the ESPN Bristol skyline, Building 13, broke ground on the hillside that overlooks the rest of campus.

This location, next to the 22-dish teleport, was to become the future home of several technology groups and Creative Services, among others.

It would also house the “Super Conference Room,” one of the most sophisticated teleconference rooms in the state of Connecticut. Building 13 was also designed to meet the US Green Building Council’s LEED Certification criteria.

Folks on the Facilities Campus Branding Committee thought this ambitious new building should be given a theme around which to plan the décor.

Obviously, what richer theme could you ever explore than the role of myth and superstition in sports?

Our team of researchers unearthed 20 pages of curses, myths and superstition from across the Web, and looked back at SportsCenter and ESPN The Magazine features from over the years.

Several ESPN staff writers also contributed wonderful essays that looked at No. 13 in sports or in their personal lives.

The problem was how to curate from such a vast topic. Everything was so colorful and bizarre, from Wade Boggs eating chicken before each game, to the Madden Curse, to playoff beards. Culling this down and making sense of it was like trying to drink from a fire hose, only weirder.

In many creative projects, restraints and limitations often help to generate focus.

In this case, we learned through informal feedback that our theme of sports superstition and ritual actually was making some of the future residents of the building uncomfortable.

This was very important information and it helped us to choose a path through the material which was upbeat and humorous rather than dark and gloomy. We decided to avoid scary curses and jinxes, and instead focus on “lucky 13.”

We celebrated athletes who wore No. 13 and had fabulous careers. We talked about the often very fine line between a superstition (a baseball player who avoids stepping on the foul line) and personal rituals that help a player achieve consistency and peak concentration.

Chris McClure, Creative Director in Marketing Creative Services, devised the visual logic and typography for the entire exhibition, placing most of the focus in the third-floor main lobby entrance.

The display all together is a colorful photo- and icon-driven gallery of “conversations” about No. 13.

We worked in as wide a variety of media as possible, so we have a backlit box with photos and text, an oversize essay that uses dimensional icons scattered within the text, an animation that plays across four HD monitors, and two large 3-D posters portraying the epic fight between Joe Walcott and Rocky Marciano — “a man who made his own luck.”

We also tricked out a break room so it looks like the wine bar where Bill Simmons worked when he was just out of college as “Server 13.”

The official opening of Building 13 was April 14, 2010. The residents of Building 13 were delighted and energized by the artwork.

They say “it really feels like ESPN” and makes them proud. We have many more creative ideas for Building 13, but we have to see where fate takes us….

*The Philadelphia Flyers believed an anthem singer was their good luck charm. When the late Kate Smith sang “God Bless America” before a Flyers game, either in person or on video, the Flyers have posted an amazing 62-13-3 record.

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