Behind The ScenesESPN

ESPN’s ‘Unveil’ app ad pays homage to Mike Slade

By now, most fans may have noticed a new campaign that celebrates the ability for fans to stream live events from WatchESPN directly within the latest update to the ESPN app. What most may not be aware of is the ad’s subtle “Easter egg” to former Starwave CEO Mike Slade, who helped found and launch the very first iteration of – ESPNET SportsZone – in 1995.

Mike Slade
The “real” Mike Slade
(Photo courtesy of Mike Slade)

The 30-second spot, titled “Unveil,” shows an actor portraying Slade – “ESPN Director of Digital Innovation & Integration” – as he makes a big keynote announcement to a crowded auditorium filled with cheering sports fans and mascots. Featuring the tagline “If It’s on ESPN, It’s on the ESPN App,” “the spot is the first of a series of elements from ESPN’s first multiplatform campaign for the app.

“Once we saw the [campaign] concepts from the agency [72andSunny] and realized that we were going to have a fictitious ESPN employee representing our Digital Media group, the idea of referencing Mike Slade was recommended by [ESPN Digital & Print Media EVP] John Kosner,” said Alexander Green, director of marketing at ESPN. “We felt like it was a cool opportunity to pay homage to someone who played such a pivotal role in our company’s history.”

Front Row spoke with Slade, currently a partner and a co-founder of Seattle-based Second Avenue Partners, about his character’s portrayal in the commercial:

What was your reaction when ESPN asked to use your name as the main character in the commercial?
I loved the idea. It’s super flattering, and it appeals to my quirky sense of humor in that it’s both a backhand compliment and kind of an inside joke, all combined into one great spot. It has my friends very confused, which is great.

How do you think the ad turned out?
I loved the spot. It’s not easy to convey a cool new feature and be funny at the same time, but it worked. Since I worked for Steve Jobs a bunch in my career I am intimately familiar with the “keynote” vibe, and I thought the spot captured it and also parodied it extremely well. Plus it’s a great new app – combining the apps is a fabulous idea!

Anything you’d like to say to the actor [Michael Broadhurst] that portrayed you?
I thought he did a great job. No offense, but I had (and have) a lot more hair than that guy. But other than that, he was terrific.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mascots and marching bands represented in the campaign include Michigan State University’s Sparty, Fairfield University’s Lucas the Stag, Syracuse University’s Otto the Orange, Temple University’s Diamond Marching Band, Ohio State University’s Marching Band and the Chicago Bulls’ Benny. There are also fans represented from the University of Alabama, University of Oregon, University of Oklahoma, Clemson University, Seattle Sounders, New York City Football Club, New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors.

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Paul Melvin contributed to this post.

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