Editor’s note: With the Monday, July 25 announcement of the end of the NFL lockout, Front Row presents the story behind this unique celebration.
On Monday, July 11, members of ESPN’s Marketing team, along with employees of Wieden+Kennedy New York, gathered in a dark comedy club in New York City to celebrate the pending return of football.
There were no football players in attendance, just a closed set with a turf-covered stage and a singular spotlight, which centered on inspirational comedian Judson Laipply.
He is most famous for his ‘Evolution of Dance’ video, which went viral in 2007 and remains one of the most popular videos of all time on YouTube.
But on this day, he was adding a new chapter to his famous dance by creating The Evolution of the Touchdown Dance, in which he performs 23 of the most celebrated touchdown dances from the past 35 years in a three-minute tribute to American football.
“Our agency, Wieden+Kennedy, came to us with this idea in the context of the It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports campaign, which launched about a year ago and celebrates all that is great about fandom,” said A.J. Mazza, Associate Marketing Manager, ESPN.
“Evolution of the Touchdown Dance grew out of our desire to do something for the fans to celebrate the return of football.”
But determining which dances would make the cut was not an easy process.
The goal was to choose iconic dances but also incorporate different eras and a mix of players and teams from across the league. One dance that was left on the cutting room floor was Wes Welker’s Snow Angel which, according to W+K’s assistant director of interactive production, Marc Maleh, was just too hard to incorporate into the flow of the dance.
“It was one of our favorites but we were limited due to our desire to replicate the feel of the original video with a fixed camera position,” Maleh said.
Once the sequence of dances were determined, Laipply began studying the videos.
“I had to learn every single move all together over a two-week period, whereas I had six years of practice with the original Evolution of Dance,” said Laipply.
When asked which dance was the most challenging, it was a tossup between the Ray Lewis and The Squirrel. But his favorite was the Ickey Shuffle.
“I was a young child growing up in Ohio when the Ickey Shuffle started. It seems to me to be the most iconic, and what really started the wave of touchdown dances.”