ICYMI: The week on Front Row

“Born Into It” is the latest spot from ESPN’s “It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports” brand campaign.

The spot focuses specifically on the Manchester City/Manchester U rivalry in advance of the much celebrated Manchester Derby. The apt title refers to the idea that sometimes, you don’t pick your team — it picks you. (i.e., Yankees/Red Sox in the US.)

Jeff Gonyo, senior director of marketing at ESPN, was on site in Manchester, England for the three-day shoot and shares some of the behind-the-scenes scoop.

What makes this ad so impactful?
We wanted to be authentic, in every sense of the word, so it was a prerequisite in casting that the actors be from Manchester and fans of the teams. We shot on the streets and in the pubs of Manchester. It was freezing cold and raining sideways for most of the three days we were there, but we had a great time. The actors embraced their roles — they didn’t interact much at the beginning of the shoot but seemed to warm up to each other just a bit toward the end.

Did you have anyone from Manchester on the production side?
The Americans on set included myself and the team from Wieden+Kennedy, but the entire crew was from Manchester, including one of our producers. The slang varies from region to region and he helped make sure we were speaking in the right tongue and helped us have fun with the colloquialisms without crossing any lines.It was important we had the Mancunian perspective on-site.

Why did you decide to focus on this rivalry instead of one US based?
There are a lot of storied rivalries in the U.S. — and we’ve explored a lot of them in previous campaigns. But soccer, as the world’s most popular sport, also has some of the most historic rivalries — Man City vs. Man U is certainly one of them. It is ingrained into the spirit of the town and it runs generations deep. As the popularity of soccer in the U.S. continues to grow, we wanted to shed a little light onto a rivalry Americans may not know as much about. There is no doubt that in Manchester, you are born a red or a blue — and to change that just wouldn’t fly. In fact, it’s rubbish.

— By Amy Phillips

ICYMI: Highlights from the past week on Front Row

• An ESPN senior researcher explains how his department stays on top of the seemingly constant shuffling of the NCAA conferences. It involves a very extensive spreadsheet.

• Many gathered at the University of Pittsburgh to remember long-time ESPN college football analyst Beano Cook who passed away in October. ESPN college football reporter Ivan Maisel was among the speakers; he shared a draft of his speech with Front Row.

Samantha Steele stepped out from under the stadium lights and onto the Disney Boardwalk for the Home Depot College Football Awards. Steele gave Front Row a few of her thoughts prior to her red carpet hosting debut.

• Body doubles figure prominently in the latest from ESPN Marketing as a new ESPN on NBA RV spot debuted. In the ad, ESPN’s NBA commentating team is joined by Clippers point guard Chris Paul and look-alikes representing each of commentators and Paul. Watch the hilarious ad and see what the body doubles had to say about the experience.

Row of Four
Our favorites from across ESPN over the past week

• From Grantland: The story of boxer Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin’s rise from extreme poverty to his first title fight.

• The Wednesday Outside the Lines podcast examined the ramifications of expensive buyouts for coaches in college football. Jeremy Schaap filled in for Bob Ley.

• From espnW: Missy Franklin reflects on her “insane” year.

• Enjoy an array of photos in this gallery from ESPN Images.

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