NBA megastar Giannis Antetokounmpo—who makes tons of ads in a happy or humorous vein—shoots for the unexpected in fresh work for JBL wireless sports earbuds.
Agency Annex88 and Fela director Jackson Tisi crafted spots breaking this week. They fuse the two-time MVP's intense persona with rich, trippy visuals. Snow falls everywhere amid hoop-as-halo symbolism. We're transported by artful zooms and pans. Original music sets a misty mood and deepens the dreamy atmosphere.
Yes, the spot teeters on the edge of self-parody (like a ball circling the rim?) But that actually works in its favor, adding zest to an earnest approach.
Here, celebrity doesn't overwhelm brand positioning. Rather, Giannis' personality helps drive the message. These buds are for winners, not posers! That comes through loud and clear.
Below, Tisi chats with Muse about the project, revealing that Giannis' personality and dedication to hoops drove his creative choices.
Deep inside an MVP's head
'My goal was really to get inside the mind of Giannis," Tisi says. "To me, he is such a role model in how he carries himself, and I respect his philosophy around failure and success. His stance that failure is a necessary step to success, and what determines a winner, is amazing. I wanted my imagery to be surreal, but also to touch on what that might look like in his subconscious. Dreams of success, being idolized, sports being such a physical fight, the light and the dark moments of these pursuits, and the idea that he stands alone as this incredible athlete—these are all things I wanted to craft visuals around.
Mixing practical effect with VFX
"We carved a massive Styrofoam block in the rough shape of a sculpture," Tisi recalls. "This gave our talent something to interact with and cast shadows on while also providing tracking markers and scale for our eventual CGI replacement. The chandelier hoop and halo were practical props we made, but all of the rigging was cleaned up [in post-production]. Set extension made our hallways and curtain rooms feel even bigger—and I am truly grateful for the magic our VFX teams brought to this film. Their care to match our 35mm look was special to witness."
This team went the extra mile
"This project was definitely a labor of love and shot entirely in Milwaukee," Tisi says. "When it initially came to us, we knew it would be a challenge to pull off the scope of my vision with the resources that were available and in the amount of time we had with Giannis. Fela and I donated the 35mm film we had in storage to the campaign, and my DP Aiden Ulrich donated his camera and lenses. This was shot entirely in one day at the abandoned Bucks training facility. Through smart production design, utilizing extras and using everything the location had to offer, I think we made the film feel expansive. The stadium shots were done in an hour one morning as a pickup shoot."
Music seals the deal
"All of the scores and cues were custom-made. For my director's cut, I worked with long-time friend and collaborator Gavin Brivik, who made some really amazing cinematic scores. The other cues were made to feel more upbeat and hit a different tone and energy. They were crafted by talented people over at Nautilus Productions. The scores in the various cuts really show how dynamic the cinematography was to be able to fit these varying tones."
Director: Jackson Tisi
Executive Producer: Taj Critchlow
Executive Producer/Producer: Fuliane Petikyan
COO: Dean Rosen
DP: Aiden Ulrich
Editor: Nick Yumul
Colorist: Aubrey Woodiwiss
VFX: Sergii Mashevskyi @ Cameo FX
Agency: Annex 88
Chief Creative Officer: Andre Grey
Creative Director: Reggie Van Nurden
Executive Producer: Joe Maire
Senior Business Manager: Suzanne Voss
Business Manager: Terry Phan
Executive Managing Director: Elena Grasman
Group Account Director: Karen Propp
Account Director: Quinn Levin
VP, Integrated Marketing: Bill Wyman
VP, Brand Engagement Marketing: Chris Epple
Senior Director, Consumer & Auto: Liz Cibor
Director, Sports & Retail: Amanda Wormald
Director, Content, Media & Gaming: Katie Raymond
Senior Manager, Product Marketing: Ken Weimer