Athletes, Anchors and Fans Compose 'Love Letters' to Sports in New ESPN Campaign

'Dear Sports' takes the field

If you could compose a love letter to sports, what would you say?

Naturally, most die-hards would profess their undying passion for the games—pro, college and otherwise—and bid them to return ASAP from their pandemic blackout. Indeed, the athletes, on-air personalities and fans featured in the anchor video of ESPN's "Dear Sports" campaign do just that—and often in starkly emotional terms:

#DearSports | ESPN

"For all my life, you have been the thing that has given structure to my existence," says SportsCenter's Scott Van Pelt in the film. "I don't think we ever took you for granted, but I think we know now more than ever just how much you mean to all of us."

"You have meant everything to me," adds his ESPN colleague, Holly Rowe, who's love of sports kept her strong as she battled cancer. "I just can never repay you."

Ultimately, the subjects look forward to sports' return—to the great plays, stirring comebacks and transcendent nature of the games that teach us so much about ourselves. WBNA star Chelsea Gray movingly sums up the entire exercise: "I am not me without sports," she says.

Millions around the world share that feeling, and the universality and authenticity of these messages really score.

Also appearing are current and former players Jared Allen, Cliff Avril and DeSean Jackson of the NFL; Lisa Leslie, Nancy Lieberman and Amanda Zahui B. of the WNBA; UFC champion Holly Holm; and NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson. Other ESPN talent taking part include Nicole Briscoe, Julie Foudy, Mike Golic, Mike Golic, Jr., Cassidy Hubbarth, Jessica Mendoza, Kevin Neghandi, Omar Raja, Tom Rinaldi, Marty Smith, Dick Vitale and Trey Wingo.

You can view their expanded, individual contributions here.

ESPN CreativeWorks produced the campaign. It breaks today, with elements appearing across TV, audio and digital platforms. Fans are invited to share their own "love letters" using the #DearSports hashtag. 

"Our team had actually been working on this idea behind the scenes for almost three years," Jay Marrotte, CreativeWorks senior creative director, tells Muse. "While this first volume has a very specific tone due to Covid-19, it is our hope that this platform will live on in different themed volumes aligned to sport tentpole events."

The notion of speaking to sports as a person "felt inspiring," Marrotte says. "No one had really taken ownership of talking to 'sports,' in its entirety. When you look at sports like a person and not just some nebulous thing, it's a whole new perspective. We thought that was worth exploring on a much bigger level."

The subjects received no script or formal playbook. 

"They could answer however they liked," Marrotte says. "Our only request was that they start off with 'Dear Sports' and end with some kind of sign off—sincerely, thank you, etc. We received a great video from [comedian/TV host] Joel McHale, who didn't follow any of that direction—but it's Joel McHale and it's funny, so we ran with it."

Last week's stirring spot from Adidas, and ESPN's most recent "There's No Place Like Sports" campaign, hit similar themes.

This marks the second sweeping sports-themed initiative in recent days, following this multi-league PSA with athletic icons covering the names on their uniforms, and replacing them with the names of a healthcare workers on the front lines of the fight against Covid-19.

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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