When ESPN’s coverage of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup launches this weekend with a live telecast of the GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, viewers will notice a new look and sound for the program’s opening video tease.
Country music superstar Gretchen Wilson is lending her music and presence to ESPN’s telecasts of the final 10 races that make up NASCAR’s playoffs and some behind-the-scenes collaboration among various ESPN departments brought Wilson to the screen.
Wilson’s presence marks the third year that ESPN’s event production department has done a series of performance-driven teases for the Chase, starting in 2011 with actor Ron Pearlman and then going musical last year with Kid Rock.
“Knowing how well the relationship with Kid Rock the personality and Kid Rock music worked last year, we were looking for something similar this year,” said Kate Jackson, coordinating producer for ESPN’s motorsports event production.
ESPN music director Kevin Wilson (no relation) and senior music coordinator Joanne Strange brought Wilson to the NASCAR team as Wilson’s management was looking for some avenues of exposure for her in advance of a new album release.
With the subject in place, Jackson began working with a creative team to come up with ideas for 10 weeks of video teases, including ESPN staff producer Aimee Stokes, freelance director Ben Orisich and freelance writer Barrett Esposito. Orisich and Esposito also worked on the Kid Rock segments last year.
“We’ve established a very good creative working relationship together,” Jackson said. “And we bring to them ‘hey, we want to work with Gretchen Wilson, we want to do 10 weeks, here’s what we’re thinking for shoot dates, what do we think?’ And then we start to bat around ideas.”
Wilson’s 10 segments are tied to the racetracks where the Chase events are being held. Six segments were shot over two days recently in the Charlotte, N.C. area, and Jackson was very pleased with not only the results, but also with Wilson’s involvement.
“I can speak for her enthusiasm firsthand,” Jackson said. “I think she surprised herself a little bit. She did incredibly well and had a great attitude and a great delivery on camera, and I feel like she fed off of our energy.
“She was really excited and every sense I got was that she was really into being a part of this project.”