When fantasy meets reality: How Sunday Night Baseball’s 2010 Fielder-Kinsler ‘trade’ ad came together

Seth Ader (ESPN)
Seth Ader (ESPN)

Yesterday, Major League Baseball fans were stunned by a trade that sent Detroit Tigers slugger Prince Fielder to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler.

As unexpected as the blockbuster trade seemed, ESPN’s marketing team “predicted” a move involving the players – coincidentally, of course – in a 2010 ad for Sunday Night Baseball featuring Fielder (with the Milwaukee Brewers at the time) and Kinsler. They are depicted watching television with actor Adam Scott while discussing fantasy baseball trades. During the 30-second spot, Kinsler suggests a deal involving both of them in exchange for San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum.

Front Row spoke with Seth Ader, ESPN’s senior director of Sports Marketing, for his recollection of how the ad came together.

What’s your take on this coincidence?
I would love to say we had a premonition that someday Prince Fielder would be traded for Ian Kinsler. It’s really funny. What are the chances of something like this happening? There are always weird coincidences of life imitating art with the campaigns we work on, but I don’t think they were as straightforward as this one.

Most importantly, though, is that this campaign was written to play off the idea that ballplayers are increasingly more active on fantasy sports themselves. This spot in particular was about those guys playing fantasy baseball, and here we are, where fantasy has become a reality.

What was the basis for the campaign?
The premise was to position Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN as the “game of the week,” where America gets together to watch baseball. The commercial was filmed in 2010 and the script was written by our advertising agency, Wieden + Kennedy New York.

How did your team settle on those two players?
We were looking for high-profile players and All-Stars, and of course, guys who could act. As you can see, they did an excellent job.

Why did you recruit Adam Scott for this role?
We needed an actor with comedic chops to play the non-baseball player. In this campaign, there were a series of five spots, and Adam was featured in all of them. Adam plays the “everyman,” the guy who has his baseball player friends over to watch the game.

My recollection of working with Adam was that he was so good at improvising, that most of the stuff he was doing wasn’t even scripted. He was coming up with his own lines and his own reactions to the players that were sometimes better than what we thought they would be on paper. That speaks to how good of an actor and how funny he is.

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