The original Rose Bowl was designed by architect Myron Hunt and built between 1921 and 1923, with concrete, steel and hours of sweat.
ESPN’s challenge to food stylist Esther Nieuwenhuis was to recreate the iconic structure using tools such as pumpernickel bread, cold cuts, cauliflower pots, asparagus, hot dogs and wheat grass.
“This was the first time I’ve ever had to design a stadium,” Nieuwenhuis told Front Row.
That “stadium,” along with a 90-foot long table showcasing hundreds of snacks and drinks, was used in the ESPN spot titled “Party Spread.” The ad tells the story of the new college football holiday that will take place over a 36-hour span between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day around the “New Year’s Six” bowl games, culminating with the two semifinal games of the inaugural College Football Playoff.
A well-known food stylist with over 20 years of experience, Nieuwenhuis has designed tacos, pot pies, burgers and even coffee for numerous TV and print ads.
“This project was truly a team effort,” she said. “We really wanted to accurately represent the bowls and each of their distinct features – the palm trees, the colors and the shapes.”
The process took three weeks from idea to execution: two weeks to develop the concept, design the appearance of the table and shop for ingredients, and one week to place the arrangements and film the vignette. The Rose Bowl stadium alone had to be executed on a trial and error basis in the course of six days, in order to maintain the sturdiness of each ingredient for the shoot.
While the larger-than-life layer cakes appearing in the spot were commissioned by a local bakery, everything else was meticulously designed and decorated by Nieuwenhuis and her team, who picked the ingredients based on colors and texture. The table also smartly integrates each of the bowl sponsors.
In addition to “Party Spread,” ESPN debuted a spot titled “Playoff Ride,” which showcases how 128 teams shared the same goal, but through a montage of defining moments – and crushed monitors – it’s made clear that only four teams can make it a reality (Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State).
Both spots, currently airing on ESPN and available digitally, are part of ESPN’s integrated campaign “Who’s In?,” which launched in August with “Different Ways In.” The campaign not only set the stage for an historic season, but also served to educate fans about the new Playoff system, seen exclusively on ESPN and heard on ESPN Radio.