ESPN Captures the Power, Heartache and Glory of Sports In Pair of New Campaigns

Winning plays from agency Arts & Letters

Big-time sports exists in a parallel universe that can seem more dramatic, colorful and intoxicating than our own. We feed this alternate world through our fandom, and it, in turn, nourishes us—supplying stupefying storylines of triumph, defeat, glory and heartache. 

Amplifying our hopes and dreams, each touchdown, home run, buzzer-beating basket and goooooooal! reminds us how intense rivalries, fierce competition and drama (on and off the field) heighten the human experience. (Or detract from it, if you're rooting for the Boston Red Sox this year. Ouch!) 

ESPN celebrates this state of affairs in "There's No Place Like Sports," which broke Tuesday during the cable network's U.S. Open tennis coverage. The minute-long spot below recaps some notable highlights from fields, courts and stadiums around the globe, with a salient question accompanying each piece of footage.

We see 15-year-old Coco Gauff's stunning Wimbledon upset of Venus Williams, along with the query: "Where else do we dream of defeating our heroes?" And there's the U.S. Women's National Team's World Cup victory, along with the pointed, equal-pay-related inquiry: "Where else do you fight for more than a win?" 

There's No Place Like Sports

The text "Where else is an injury just the beginning?" accompanies images of Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier being carried from the field in December 2017 with a spinal injury, and then, less than five months later, walking with his fiancée onto a stage at AT&T Stadium. 

Later, in a heartbreaking scene, members of the Los Angeles Angels drape team jerseys, each bearing No. 45, across a pitcher's mound, honoring Tyler Skaggs, the team's young hurler who died this summer. 

This is brave work that doesn't shy away from the negative. Rather than simply present rah-rah moments, it captures the many sides of sports, and boosts ESPN by portraying the network as gatekeeper to a realm where wins and positive developments send you soaring, and losses (in-game and otherwise) stomp your spirit into the dirt. 

"You don't have to watch sports all the time to realize that it is a very different kind of place, one full of narratives and characters that highlight the best of our human potential," says Charles Hodges, founder and executive creative director at Richmond, Va.-based independent Arts & Letters Creative Co., which developed the campaign. 

"The things that happen there simply don't happen anywhere else. ESPN has always been a home for this relationship with sports, one that seeks to elevate the arena of competition beyond simple stats and scores. That's why we created 'There's no place like sports'—to remind people what ESPN has always been about: a home for the world's biggest sports fans, no matter how long they've been watching." 

That's not to say there's no fun in those games. "Ready for Football," a separate Arts & Letters campaign that broke over the weekend, tweaks the gridiron gods as the new season gets underway: 

NFL on ESPN | Ready For Football

Amid scenes of bone-bruising game action, we meet a couple who duck out of a cousin's wedding for Wild Card Weekend (why go at all, really?), as well as an Arizona Cardinals superfan who changes his kid's name to Kyler (Mr. Murray approves!), and endure the 999,999th and 1 millionth commercial references to reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes (but who's counting?).

"In today's world, where people have an increasing amount of things competing for their time, NFL football still stands as the ultimate attention champion," Hodges says. "Everything matters—every pick, every play, every game, every week. In a way, it's almost like the original reality TV, with the storylines always evolving—on the field, off the field, and even in the off-season. Fans want to be ready for whatever happens next. They want a relationship with this unpredictable saga. So we built a brand platform where the NFL on ESPN could live 24/7/365 and provide a relationship with football like only ESPN can."

These campaigns mark Arts & Letters' first work for the client. Kudos to the shop for calling in winning plays across the creative spectrum. It's a memorable way to kick off the association.

CREDITS

—"There's No Place Like Sports"

Client: ESPN
CMO: Laura Gentile
Senior Director: Rachel Epstein
Marketing Manager: Amanda Marcotullio
Associate Marketing Manager: Grace Bowes
Director, Sports Marketing: Erin Thornton
Contributor, Writer, Producer: Stacey Pressman

Arts & Letters Creative Co.
Founder, Executive Creative Director: Charles Hodges
Director of Strategy: Andy Grayson
Director of Production: Letitia Jacobs
Managing Director: Rich Weinstein
Creative: Blair Seward 
Creative: Elizabeth Daniel 
Creative: Chris Araujo
Creative: Kim Nguyen
Creative: Whitney Repole
Creative Albert Song
Assistant Producer: Griffin Morrow 
Head of Business Affairs: Lenora Cushing
Business Affairs: Jennifer Kmetzsch
Business Manager: Mary Stuart Smart 
Business Manager: Martin Madriaga 
Strategist: Jessica Sartoretto 

Editorial Company: XYZ Editorial
Editor: Ryan Quinn 
Assistant Editor: Dallas Simms 

Color: Mondial Inc.
Colorist: Will Renton
Color Producer: Ash Bruce

Audio Mix: Overcoast Music + Sound
Audio Mixer: Matt Whitworth
Producer: J.L. Hodges
Track: "Beliefe"

—"NFL on ESPN: Ready For Football"

Client: ESPN
CMO: Laura Gentile
VP, Marketing: Emeka Ofodile
Director, Marketing: Curtis Friends
Manager, Marketing: David Dessau
Assoc. Manager, Marketing: Lauren Gorajek
Coordinator, Marketing: Carly Rotatori
Associate Director, Event Talent: Sharee Stephens
VP of Sports Marketing (Multicultural): Michelle Bella
Director of Sports Marketing (Multicultural): Lucas Ferraro

Agency: Arts & Letters Creative Co. 
Founder, Executive Creative Director: Charles Hodges
Director of Strategy: Andy Grayson
Director of Production: Letitia Jacobs
Managing Director: Rich Weinstein
Creative: Rob Munk
Creative: Mark Voehringer
Creative: Tanner McColl
Creative: Scott Hayes
Creative: Eric Stevens
Business Manager: Martin Madriaga
Business Manager: Zack Stergar
Executive Producer: Rebecca Wilmer
Assistant Producer: Griffin Morrow
Head of Business Affairs: Lenora Cushing

Production: Superprime
Director: The Malloys
Managing Director / EP: Rebecca Skinner
Managing Director / Head of Sales: Michelle Ross
Executive Producer: Colleen O'Donnell 
EP / Head of Production: Roger Zorovich 
Line Producer: Carr Donald

Editorial: Cosmo Street
Editor: Stephen Dunne
Editor: Kimmy Dubé
Assistant Editor: Alex Mihailovic
Assistant Editor: Jared Zygarlicke
Head of Production: Luiza Naritomi

Finishing: SwitchFX

Color: Company 3
Colorist: Stefan Sonnenfeld

Audio Mix: Sonic Union
Audio Engineer/Sound Designer: Steve Rosen
Senior Producer: Pat Sullivan

Music: Overcoast Music
Music Supervisor: JL Hodges

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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