Behind The ScenesSportsCenterTISC

How Katy Perry’s sharks became “This Is SportsCenter” stars in record time

Capitalizing on the unexpected fame of Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime show dancers – Left Shark and Right Shark – ESPN created a “This is SportsCenter” commercial that revealed their “true identities” – SportsCenter anchors Bram Weinstein and John Anderson.

Not only did the spot garner over 4.5 million video views — one of the most-watched digital ads in the history of the campaign — it was also the fastest commercial to be created in the nearly 20-year-old “This is SportsCenter” franchise, which has produced almost 400 spots.

How did they do it? Front Row spoke with Julian Gompertz, marketing coordinator at ESPN, who provided us with a timeline of the record-setting, four-day turnaround.

· Thursday, Feb. 5, 5 p.m. ET – ESPN’s creative agency, Wieden + Kennedy New York, brought the idea of filming the commercial to a meeting with ESPN’s marketing department. ESPN’s Senior Vice President, Marketing, Aaron Taylor, who was in attendance, loved the concept. The team decided to bring the idea to Perry’s management. Later that day, Perry’s representatives responded, saying there was a real possibility of making this happen.

· Friday, Feb. 6, morning – The teams met again, this time to plan the logistics of the shoot. The group covered the work of a 2- to 3-month process in 12 hours. “We had to do everything knowing that it may never happen and, on top of everything, that there was a snowstorm coming to Connecticut on Sunday,” Gompertz said.

· Saturday, Feb. 7 – The shoot was confirmed and a new challenge emerged: physically bringing the costumes to ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. headquarters. Perry had promised her niece in California the sharks would attend her birthday party that day. With that in mind, the group enlisted a handler to transport the costumes and ensure they returned to California safely.

It’s extremely rare to be able to turn around edited footage this quickly and for everyone to approve of the look and feel of the spot, but we miraculously pulled it off overnight.
Marketing coordinator, ESPN, Julian Gompertz, on producing the latest “TISC” spot

· Sunday, Feb. 8, morning – The costumes and the crew arrived in Bristol. The teams met on ESPN’s campus to conduct the location scout – an essential part of the pre-shoot prep that is usually done by the team days before shooting — where the crew selects the specific location of the shoot.

· Sunday, Feb. 8, evening – The snowstorm began. The group followed its tradition of meeting for dinner the night before shooting. Given the short timeline, the team conducted its pre-production meeting at the dinner, laying out each of the shots and angles for the commercial.

· Monday, Feb. 9, 7 a.m. The crew – and the shark outfits – arrived on campus. Upon assessing what the storm had done to the area, director David Shane – who has directed many of the campaign’s ads – modified the entire ending sequence and the look of the video, leading to the re-routing of the entire crew and their equipment. “Originally, we were supposed to film the ad completely outside in front of ESPN’s Visitor Center entrance, but given the storm, Shane moved the filming to [ESPN’s Digital Center 2], with the reveal of the anchors set inside,” said Gompertz.

· Monday, Feb. 9, 4 p.m. – Shooting ended and the editing process began. “It’s extremely rare to be able to turn around edited footage this quickly and for everyone to approve of the look and feel of the spot, but we miraculously pulled it off overnight,” said Gompertz.

· Tuesday, Feb. 10, 7 a.m. – The team finished at 6:30 a.m. the next day and coordinated with ESPN’s programming, digital, social and communications teams to launch the spot across all platforms at 9 a.m. and on-air at 10:00 a.m.

· Tuesday, Feb. 10, 9 a.m. – The spot successfully premieres.

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