Don Cheadle Takes His Best Shot in Brand Anthem for Golf's U.S. Open

'E pluribus unum, baby'

Our national motto, "E pluribus unum," translates from the Latin as "From many, one." That phrase, along with plenty of attitude, drives Zambezi's debut campaign for the U.S. Golf Association. The work broke over the weekend, promoting the U.S. Open men's championships, slated for June 18-21 at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

The USGA tasked Zambezi with conveying several ideas simultaneously: the challenge of a demanding, premier event; its 120-year heritage; the fact that more players try to qualify for the Open than any other tournament; and its transcendent impact on sports and culture.

"The goal was to get all of them across in a clear, focused way," agency creative director Jeff Siegel tells Muse. "We were hoping we could hit two of them well—three if we were really lucky—but we thought it would be impossible to find a line that touched on all of them. Then, after writing a million lines, it hit us that 'E pluribus unum' worked really well" for succinctly summarizing such a multifaceted message.

Seems like a stretch, and not exactly the kind of rallying cry associated with golf. Still, it's memorably outré, and serves more as an exclamation point for a campaign that boasts traditional elements such as tournament footage and interviews with legends of the game.

In the centerpiece :60, actor Don Cheadle kicks back in L.A.'s Club Tee Gee. Surrounded by golf memorabilia, the Academy Award nominee (for Hotel Rwanda) takes his best shot at putting the Open's significance in perspective:

The U.S. Open | E Pluribus Unum, Baby

"Around here, we appreciated success that's earned, not given" Cheadle says. "We like blood, sweat and tears—served up with a side of blood, sweat and more tears. Because there's nothing more gratifying than watching frustration, doubt, even agony give way to a beautiful tear-jerking triumph right before our eyes."

As the links action on the TV set above the bar grows more intense, he admires how Open competitors "use up every ounce" of their "mind, body and energy" in the quest for greatness, and ultimately raises his glass in a toast: "E pluribus unum, baby."

"Because one of our biggest goals was to appeal to a much wider audience than hardcore golf fans, we knew we wanted to get someone who was bigger than golf," Siegel says of hiring Cheadle, who's making his debut as a USGA spokesman.

"Don was actually the first person we thought of," Siegel says. "He's a big golfer, and he's obviously a cultural icon. He also embodies the grit, gravitas and vibe we wanted. We actually wrote the scripts with him in mind, thinking we had a roughly zero percent chance of ever getting him."

As luck would have it, the actor "is friendly with former PGA Tour player Jason Gore, who works for the USGA as senior managing director of player relations," Siegel recalls. "After the meeting [in which Zambezi presented the campaign idea], Jason shot Don a text. A few phone calls and text chains later, and it was on."

Cheadle's performance—appropriately impassioned and, at times, a tad cheeky—really scores, aided by sharp direction from Imperial Woodpecker's Rohan Blair-Mangat. (The actor has delivered heartfelt sports monologues in ads before, notably one for the NFL during the 2002 Super Bowl.)

The shoot represented a reunion between Cheadle and director of photography Robert Elswit (an Oscar winner for There Will Be Blood). They worked together on 1997's Boogie Nights "and it was really awesome watching them trade old stories," Siegel says. "Elwsit actually had another job booked when we reached out, but he was so excited to work with Don again—and with our director, Rohan—that he altered his schedule."

In other campaign videos, amateur golfers such as Matt Parziale and Nick Mason discuss their quest to stand out from "the many":

In a separate series, icons Tiger Woods, Lee Travino and others talk about the sacrifice and glory of becoming "the ones":

Print ads use bold visuals and brawny headlines to deliver the "From Many, One" theme. Click the thumbnails below to enlarge:

"The target audience is the broad community of almost 30 million fans—starting with superfans and extending to more casually engaged fans of sports in general and those interested in cultural events," notes Zambezi strategy director Eric Tepe. "It extends inward to players, golf and sport media and partners of the USGA—and even further to the USGA employees and volunteers themselves."

To create an inclusive, flexible platform, "we did extensive research with all interest groups to distill a clear and powerful brand narrative," choosing a somewhat novel approach, Tepe says.

"Typically, U.S. Open campaigns have been more transactional, focusing on driving ticket sales with focused golf audiences," he says. But in this case, the team strove to create "a more emotional brand narrative, along with a broader plan for distribution [across TV, print and digital that] feels different from the championships' past communication."


Client: USGA
Advertising Agency: Zambezi
CEO: Jean Freeman 
Chief Creative Officer: Gavin Lester
Creative Director: Jeff Siegel
Associate Creative Directors: Jamie Kiersted, Cody Witt
Senior Art Director: Eugene Chang
Senior Copywriter: Kurt Gassman 
Head of Content: Alex Cohn
Executive Producer: Andrew Gage
Senior Producer: Sabrina Hoverkamp
Senior Producer: Timothy I. Stevenson
Associate Producer: Michael Harding
Group Account Director: Gordon Gray
Account Supervisor: Carly Ayres
Project Manager: Lauren Northcott
Chief Strategy Officer: Jill Burgeson 
Strategy Director: Eric Tepe
Strategist: Allison Newell

Media Agency: Zambezi 

Production: Imperial Woodpecker        
Director: Rohan Blair-Mangat
Director of Photography: Robert Elswit
Executive Producer: Charlie Cocuzza
Line Producer: Timory King

Post Production: FIN Studios    
Editor: Ling Ly
Assistant Editor: Kevin Darnell Walker
Colorist: Ian Gibson
Mixer: Jesse Herrera
Supervising Producer: Katrina Nahikian
VFX Artist: Ling Ly & Tom Hall
Music: Mophonics Music
Creative Director: Stephan Altman 
Composer: Casey Gibson 
Head of Production: Shelley Altman

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