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Van Pelt gets mascots’ silent treatment in latest This Is SportsCenter ad

Anyone working in an office environment can relate to some of the classic annoyances of conference calls – the cheesy on-hold music and the awkward “Who’s on the line?” roll call, to name two.

That’s the theme the iconic “This is SportsCenter” campaign – which has been exploring the fictional day-to-day life at ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., offices since 1995 – addressed in its latest spot titled “Conference Call,” which debuted March 4 on TV and social media.

In the 30-second commercial, SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt can be heard calling into a conference call with mascots George Washington’s George, Wake Forest University’s Demon Deacon, Rutgers University’s Scarlet Knight, Providence College’s Friar, Purdue University’s Purdue Pete and UMass’ Sam the Minuteman.

Scott Van Pelt.  (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)
Scott Van Pelt (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

“Our creative agency [Wieden + Kennedy New York] brought up the concept of showing ‘human’ mascots – who obviously cannot speak – on a conference call with an anchor,” said Patrick Sofen, associate marketing manager at ESPN. “Having a half dozen mascots on campus in Building 5 can be like organizing a circus, but it’s a fun process.”

Bristol is obviously the mecca for all sports fans, so to be on location shooting a national commercial was one of the best moments of my life. . . next to winning America its freedom.
– George, the GWU mascot

According to Sofen, ESPN’s marketing team spent one week securing and confirming the mascots featured in the ad, who travelled to Connecticut in early November with their handlers solely for the shoot.

“We shot this commercial and two other ones on the same day, including ‘Blimp’ [which debuted on Jan. 1],” Sofen said.

“The experience was special for me,” GWU’s George said. “It was my first SportsCenter commercial and while there were some familiar mascot faces, I made a bunch of new friends. Bristol is obviously the mecca for all sports fans, so to be on location shooting a national commercial was one of the best moments of my life . . . next to winning America its freedom.”

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