Behind The ScenesGiving Back

Young student directors bring ESPN’s Black History Month spot to life

At first I was a bit nervous to do a commercial for ESPN, since it’s such a big name, but now I’m so happy and proud, especially since it celebrates Black History Month which means so much to me.
– Hannah Gonera, 12, co-director of ESPN’s new Black History Month ad

What were you doing when you were 12 years old?

Hannah Gonera, 12, and Tru Jackson, 15, have jumpstarted their career ambitions by directing “Lead,” ESPN’s new commercial honoring Black History Month. The spot debuted on ESPN networks Feb. 6.

The video comes from a collaboration between ESPN’s marketing team and Adolescent, a Los Angeles, Calif.-based production company that represents and mentors directors ages 11-27.

Gonera and Jackson worked over the course of two days last month – Jan. 15 and 16 – to bring the commercial to life under the guidance of award-winning director Andrew Droz Palermo and creative director Ramaa Mosley, who helms Adolescent.

Filmed in various parts of Los Angeles, the spot shows African-American youth athletes from local schools and teams imitating their favorite athletes.

Pro athletes depicted in the spot include soccer’s Jozy Altidore, basketball’s Brittany Griner and Damian Lillard, football’s Calvin Johnson, baseball’s David Price and tennis’ Serena Williams. The internationally acclaimed Grambling State University Tiger Marching Band also is seen in performance; their routines are emulated on a Los Angeles bridge by a youth marching band from Heartbeat Music Academy, also from California.

This is the first spot Gonera, who is in the seventh grade, has directed since joining Adolescent. Her father, Sunu Gonera, is a commercial director who also helmed the film “Pride,” a 2007 movie starring Terrence Howard.

It was such a joy to work with Hannah and Tru and to see how they matured throughout the course of these two days.
– ESPN Sports Marketing’s AJ Mazza on working with the young directors

“I was always doing small videos with my friends, and I was usually the one behind the camera filming everyone, so when Ramaa [Mosley] reached out to me with this project, I knew it was perfect,” Gonera said. “At first, I was a bit nervous to do a commercial for ESPN, since it’s such a big name, but now I’m so happy and proud, especially since it celebrates Black History Month, which means so much to me.”

From the first time creative agency 77 Ventures presented the idea to ESPN to the final edits, the concept of the vignette didn’t change much. The kids were very hands-on and involved in the entire process, mostly filming and directing on set. A lot of the editing was done by the ad agencies.

“A lot of departments across the company contributed to make this happen under a short timeline,” said AJ Mazza, sports marketing manager at ESPN. “This project felt much bigger than just a commercial. We felt this was a very unique way to celebrate Black History Month, a cause beyond the cause. It was such a joy to work with Hannah and Tru and to see how they matured throughout the course of these two days.”

Read more about this project in ProMax.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvUC-cBfxf8

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