Behind The Scenes

NBA legends Magic, Bird add voices
to ‘A Champion Will Rise’ campaign

When the NBA playoffs began, ESPN unveiled an emotional campaign across television, digital, print and social which centered on the dramatic image of a rising championship banner.

Entitled “A Champion Will Rise,” the first executions featured Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant and Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce sitting in the rafters, expressing a drive to make history for their respective teams by hanging a championship banner this season.

Leading into the NBA Finals, which begin exclusively on ABC on June 12, the campaign recruited two of the highest profile NBA champions in the world to provide perspective — and voices –to the ‘A Champion Will Rise’ theme.

In the new spots, NBA legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson — who also is an ESPN analyst — and Larry Bird relive their glory days as historic footage intertwines with images of today’s top NBA stars. Johnson and Bird remind us that none of their individual achievements can top the powerful memory of raising a championship banner.

Jeff Gonyo, senior director, sports marketing for ESPN, sat down with Front Row to explain how ‘A Champion Will Rise’ came to life.

Why did you choose Magic and Larry to participate in this campaign?
Magic and Larry represent the passion and the drive to raise a banner and win championships. They were two iconic players who always put team first, and that is what this campaign is all about. It’s about winning championships, not celebrating individual stats. We believe that Johnson and Bird are emblematic of that.

When and where did you film the spots?
Magic recorded his spot on-site at our LA Live ESPN studios. Larry recorded his at the Indiana Pacers’ in-arena audio facility. We combed through hundreds of tapes of old NBA footage to find shots to match the narratives Magic and Larry were telling.

How do their voices and stories help to capture the drama of the playoffs?
They are two recognizable voices and they are both still very much a part of the game today. Even though they are retired, their passion for the NBA is unmatched. They are strong voices that represent the game of basketball very well.

Where did the banner theme originate?
The personal stuff is all good, but at the end of the day, you want to win championships. That’s how you will be remembered. And what signifies championships better than the raising of a banner? The campaign was developed with our agency, Wieden + Kennedy. We wanted it to be big and dramatic and to capture the ultimate goal of all of these players – winning a championship.

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