Behind The Scenes

From Broadway to the NBA – actor lends voice to ESPN playoff campaign

Chris Jackson, an actor in Broadway's acclaimed play "Hamilton," is the voice behind ESPN Marketing's "It's Time To Believe" campaign focused on the network's NBA Playoffs coverage. (Ana Livia Coelho/ESPN)
Chris Jackson, an actor in Broadway’s acclaimed play “Hamilton,” is the voice behind ESPN Marketing’s “It’s Time To Believe” campaign focused on the network’s NBA Playoffs coverage. (Ana Livia Coelho/ESPN)
Draft Lottery precedes Western Conference Finals Game 1 tonight

Prior to NBA Western Conference Finals Game 1 tonight between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors (9 p.m. ET) from Oakland, Calif., ESPN will televise the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery (8:30 p.m.). The annual event emanates from New York, N.Y. Mark Jones will host Lottery coverage with college basketball analyst and NBA Draft expert Jay Bilas as well as reporter Heather Cox. For more information, visit ESPN MediaZone.

When viewing ads, fans have no idea the amount of work and theatrics behind finding a strong, memorable voice, filled with personality. So, what better place to find such a voice than in New York City’s famed Theater District?

That’s what ESPN Marketing had in mind when enlisting “Hamilton” actor – and Los Angeles Lakers fan – Chris Jackson to voice ESPN’s NBA Playoffs campaign, “It’s Time to Believe.” This was the first time Jackson, who has portrayed George Washington in the award-winning Broadway play (see tweet below), has lent his distinctive voice to a sports campaign.

“I’ve probably recorded 40 to 50 voice-overs for various commercials, and as a performing artist, this is very familiar territory,” said Jackson, who also has played Simba in Disney’s “The Lion King” on Broadway. “But to be a part of a campaign like this and for ESPN, it’s the best of all.”

I go to sleep with ESPN on TV and my girlfriend is tired of hearing your voice!
Chris Jackson, voice of ESPN’s NBA Playoff promotions, on the ribbing he gets from friends

“Chris blew us away from his first audition,” said Justin Swiderski, writer and producer at ESPN Marketing. “He brings this distinctive attitude and unique energy, and his talents as an actor have shaped the identity and tone of this campaign. He’s a joy to work with, and it’s fun to hear him bring our writing to life.”

Front Row spoke with Jackson last week, after one of his recent recording sessions in New York’s Reveal 42 studio, about being such a crucial part of this campaign:

How different it is to do a voice-over for a sports campaign versus for other commercials?
This particular campaign is based around a specific kind of performance; it’s a very inspired kind of speech pattern they are looking for in these spots. It requires more than just reading – it bridges the gap between a standard announcer kind of presentation and something that’s a little more dramatic.

How does it feel to listen to your own voice on ESPN? Have other people recognized it?
I love seeing the spots – they are great – and hearing my voice on TV. I was watching a recent game and the five-second tagline came after a commercial out of nowhere, so fast and I had to rewind it – [Jackson said to a friend] ‘Baby there’s a five-second spot! So fast! And it took forever to do it!’ [Laughs] I get texts from my buddies saying ‘I am hearing your voice all the time!’ or ‘I go to sleep with ESPN on TV and my girlfriend is tired of hearing your voice!’

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