“Who’s In?” campaign traversed the world of college football

Real college football fans featured in ESPN’s “Who’s In?” campaign.

Today, ESPN debuted a series of ads for the upcoming college football season, the first to culminate with a true College Football Playoff. A continuation of the “Who’s In?” campaign that launched on August 11, the two new spots – titled “In Common” and “Cinderellas” — showcase a diverse array of fans from all 128 Football Bowl Subdivision schools, each of them hopeful that this year their team will be in.

To capture the footage for the campaign, a team from ESPN, in collaboration with creative agency Wieden + Kennedy New York, traveled more than 8,000 miles throughout the country by bus and plane for three weeks, alongside a crew of more than 75 people.

According to Ryan Anderson, director of marketing at ESPN, who toured with the production company to dozens of towns and campuses, this was the only way to capture and represent the authenticity, diversity and passion of true college football fans. Cities visited during the tour included Columbus, Ohio; South Bend, Ind.; Madison, Wis.; Iowa City, Iowa; Baton Rouge, La.; Auburn, Ala.; Athens, Ga. and Chapel Hill, N.C.

“While we made as many stops as possible, we couldn’t hit every FBS school, so we relied on many die-hard fans to come to us,” Anderson said.

Fans were recruited through social media, alumni clubs, student organizations and athletic department outreach. In some cases, fans and mascots travelled up to six hours to represent their school.

From stadiums to bars and people’s backyards, the team shot at over 100 different locations.

“We shot in some pretty unique places,” Anderson said. “Zaxby’s record store in Athens, a diner in Auburn at midnight, a family’s farm in Oklahoma and on an airboat in the Louisiana bayou. You couldn’t help but gain a new perspective on the diversity and commitment of college football fans in this country.”

Perhaps one the most challenging parts of the process was turning 23 hours of footage featuring 352 fans into short vignettes, Anderson explained.

“To achieve the vision of this particular body of work – where a patchwork of college football fans make their claims in unison – we had a dedicated crew member supervising every line of every script for every fan,” he said.

ESPN’s integrated “Who’s In?” campaign will run through the crowning the of the National Champion in January 2015. The footage captured during the tour will be used to create additional spots as storylines emerge throughout the season.

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