Behind The Scenes

Johnson, Edwards, other NASCAR stars in ESPN’s ‘first place’ ads

Last season, ESPN Marketing launched a very successful “Nothing Beats First Place” campaign that chronicled all of the silly things NASCAR drivers would rather do than lose a race.

The spots featured NASCAR drivers Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson pulling pranks on fellow drivers in order to win.

This season, the “Nothing Beats First Place” campaign returns with a new slate of scenarios and stars: Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Johnson. The campaign, which launched yesterday, promotes ESPN’s coverage of the final 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup races of the season beginning with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis on July 29.

ESPN Front Row asked David Zane, associate director, Sports Marketing, to explain how the spots came to life.

Why did you choose to bring back the “Nothing Beats First Place” campaign?
We’ve done five different campaigns for five years, but we thought the strategy behind this one was very sound and it continued to apply to what we were doing in promotion of NASCAR. It seemed natural to bring it back. Fans were really receptive to the entire campaign because we were able to insert some ESPN brand personality into it. Fans had been clamoring for more humor and more personality.

What challenges do you face when returning an already popular campaign?
Campaigns can re-launch, but they also need to evolve. We wanted to keep all the things fans enjoyed about it but take it to the next level. It has to evolve in a good way and stay relevant.

Why did you choose Keselwoski, Edwards, Johnson and Hamlin as participants?
We wanted a really good mix of up and coming stars who would be relevant when the Sprint Cup series began. Johnson is always a great fit for us. We thought Edwards would be a great addition. Hamlin and Keselowski are young drivers poised to be future stars in the sport. We picked each of them for different reasons and to reach different groups of fans.

How did your team come up with all the strange but humorous scenarios?
Our friends at Wieden + Kennedy are awesome with the creative, funny scenarios. Sometimes it’s hard to envision these ideas on paper, but we have a trust in each other to make it happen. They come up with ideas that really come to life off of paper.

Any funny or interesting stories from the shoots?
The drivers had a lot of fun with this. Johnson insisted on doing all of his scenes. We offered a double, but he really wanted to participate. He really did feed a baby porcupine carrots while it sat in his lap. He really did get hit in the head with the Frisbee. During the entire shoot, he was eating it up and it was really fun to see that.

Be sure to check out our photo gallery, which features a number of behind-the-scenes shots from the shoot. And, don’t forget to tune in to ESPN’s coverage of the final 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup races of the season beginning with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis on July 29.

ESPN Communications publicist Andy Hall also contributed to this post.

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