Stoked Fans Take the Field in ESPN's Stirring Ad for College Football

From McKinney and director Peter Berg

Two weeks ago, the National Football League unleashed "We Ready," an intense anthem celebrating the league's 100th season. Stoked fans who live and die by the ups and down of their favorite teams played a key part in that campaign. 

Now, fervent fandom, and the tribal nature of those who follow the game, take the field once more. 

This time, the focus shifts to college football for a rowdy new chapter of ESPN's long-running "Who's In?" campaign that psychs up viewers all season long ahead of the cable network's playoff coverage: 

College Football | The Game Needs Us – Who’s In

To the boisterous beat of NF's "The Search," ad agency McKinney and director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, Ballers) stage a cacophonous cavalcade of quick-cuts, referencing 23 college football programs in 60 seconds. Plus, more than 200 fans, band members and cheerleaders from those schools appear.

"We needed this to feel epic," explains ESPN svp of marketing Laura Gentile. "Peter captured the pageantry and energy fans bring to the game of college football." 

Proclaiming himself a "huge fan" of the college game, Berg says he strove to unite "all of the great elements" that drive excitement on gameday, including iconic team mascots. 

Indeed, Notre Dame's Fighting Irish Leprechaun suits up, along with Sparty from Michigan State, Boomer and Sooner from Oklahoma, and plenty more. 

Though not as stirring as the NFL's outing—which is really in a league of its own—ESPN's effort should get pulses pounding. Fans bond deeply with their teams. It's a profound relationship, almost religious in its zeal, that at times prompts acolytes to wield shillelaghs or dress up as tigers, ducks and other members of the animal kingdom. 

At the very least, they don their lucky jerseys, paint their faces and scream themselves silly until the final whistle blows.

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.