CMO Tim Ellis on the NFL's New Ad, the Opposite of Its Blockbusters

72andSunny compiles at-home player clips

Tom Brady, Michael Strahan, Brett Farve, Drew Brees, Jerry Rice and 50 more National Football League legends, coaches and current stars appear in a five-minute PSA, urging viewers to join them in practicing social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez serves as emcee for this collection of personal cell-phone clips of NFLers staying at home with their families, assembled by ad agency 72andSunny:

NFL | Stay Home Stay Strong PSA

"Stayin' home and stayin' strong, baby!" Gonzalez says early on, describing what he's been up to lately. "Spending some real good quality time with the family, the kids, cooking meals every night … playing board games, just doing talent shows, doing TikToks, dances—doing whatever we can to stay busy and have some fun."

In one of the more amusing clips, five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Troy Vincent notes that his daughter "has me doing all these little chores, decorating her room"—while he strings sparkly lights across a wall.

Another cute bit finds Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr outmaneuvered by his young son, who scoots between Dad's legs and heads to the hoop during an indoor basketball game.

Elsewhere, huge Kansas City Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz prepares dinner as his pint-sized pooch keeps a hungry eye on the pan.

"There's always a bright side, I believe, in everything," Gonzalez says. "No matter what is happening … as long as we stay strong, we'll get through it, no doubt about it."

Leagues, teams and individual players, as well as big sports marketers, have joined the cause and hit similar themes in recent weeks.

For example, the National Basketball Association's "NBA Together" trumpets the league's commitment to raising $50 million for coronavirus relief, and its players have appeared in numerous PSAs. Sports advertising behemoth AB InBev donated $5 million to the American Red Cross and launched a Budweiser spot through ad shop David that cleverly incorporates team names. Nike offered free Training Club app access to help homebound folks stay fit and devised social ads with Wieden + Kennedy tagged "Play Inside, Play for the World."

In addition to its bustling #StayHomeStayStrong video, the NFL, in collaboration with its players association, clubs, owners and individual athletes, has donated more than $35 million—including $3.4 million from the NFL Foundation—to support COVID-19 relief efforts.

Below, NFL CMO Tim Ellis fields some question from Muse:

Muse: Can you talk about the process of making the film?

Tim Ellis: We executed from initial idea to posting the final video in only 10 days. I was moved by all the incredibly inspiring videos I was seeing from around the world from individuals, encouraging people to stick together to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. Players were also asking what they could do to help. I asked 72andSunny to come up with a framework that could support a compilation of [clips from] players, legends and coaches to send one clear, inspirational message.

Over the past 18 months, the NFL and 72andSunny have worked together to produce commercials that feature dozens of stars, leaning into the joy and love of football. It seemed fitting to bring players together again to help our almost 190 million fans across the world do what is necessary to overcome this challenge and to come out of it better and stronger.

The production approach for this was nothing like our other big commercials. There was no world-class director. We didn't bring everyone to one big Hollywood-style set or location. We sent a clear brief to our players and asked them to answer that brief with their own videos. The process on this production reflected the purpose—to be authentic, accessible simple and real.

Pro sports are on hiatus right now—but in a way, do you think they're more important than ever?

Sports brings people together, and the NFL is unique in how it has historically been a uniting force in this country. Our fanbase is truly reflective of America, with fans spanning across all states and demographics. I think when you watch this PSA, you are moved by not only the words that are spoken, but also the imagery. People are afraid of the unknown and in need of reassurance at this time. In the editorial process, I began to realize the PSA had the potential to work on a deep human level.

You see these incredibly powerful men as they tenderly watch over their children. As a viewer, this gave me a sense of security and comfort. We all want to feel like it's all going to be OK. We also carefully chose the music to further enhance this tone and feeling. It was crucial to get the balance right on this one—understanding the severity of the issue, but also capturing a joyful optimism.

Tony does a great job holding the film together. How'd he get the job?

Tony submitted his video within just a few hours and it was incredibly well prepared, thoughtful and articulate. 72andSunny came back with an edit that utilized Tony as the narrator, which became the spine of the piece. It was a brilliant move and it helped frame up our core message.

What's the big take-away?

In a time like this, relationships make all the difference … I am so impressed and thankful that the players were willing to so openly trust us with their most intimate stories. The content is compelling because it is open, transparent and real. It says and shows that we are all in this together. From a marketing perspective, these constraints are teaching us valuable lessons. We are learning things that will stick. We are learning how to mobilize, test boundaries and do big things without the usual support systems.

APPEARING IN THE VIDEO:

Tony Gonzalez (Chiefs/Falcon) *Legend
Derwin James (Chargers)
Michael Strahan (Giants) *Legend
Brett Favre (Packers) *Legend
Tom Brady (Buccaneers)
Alvin Kamara (Saints)
Kirk Cousins (Vikings)
Davante Adams (Packers)
Carson Wentz (Eagles)
Johnathan Cyprien (Falcons)
Jarvis Landry (Browns)
Lawrence Guy (Patriots)
Thomas Morstead (Saints)
Drew Brees (Saints)
Shaq Thompson (Panthers)
D.J. Chark (Jaguars)
Marvin Jones Jr. (Lions)
Shaquem Griffin (Seahawks)
Shaquill Griffin (Seahawks)
Russell Wilson (Seahawks)
Juan Thornhill (Chiefs)
Marlon Humphrey (Ravens)
Darius Leonard (Colts)
Steve Nelson (Steelers)
Troy Vincent (Eagles) *Legend
Taylor Gabriel (Bears)
Robert Griffin III (Ravens)
Nick Scott (Rams)
Julian Edelman (Patriots)
CJ Mosley (Jets)
Carlos Dunlap (Bengals)
Ryan Kerrigan (Redskins)
Mitchell Swartz (Chiefs)
Jerome Baker (Dolphins)
George Kittle (49ers)
Zach Ertz (Eagles)
Thomas Davis (Redskins)
Ray Lewis (Ravens) *Legend
Juju Smith-Schuster (Steelers)
Derek Carr (Raiders)
Cameron Jordan (Saints)
Greg Joseph (Titans)
Frank Ragnow (Lions)
David Bakhtiari (Packers)
Bradley Chubb (Broncos)
Fred Warner (49ers)
Mark Andrews (Ravens)
Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals)
Jerry Rice (49ers) *Legend
Sean Payton (Coach)
Orlando Brown (Ravens)
Harrison Phillips (Bills)
Curtis Martin (Jets/Patriots) *Legend
Deion Sanders (Cowboys) *Legend
JJ Watt (Texans)

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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