A freakishly long football, touted as a game changer in last week's high-profile campaign from Amazon Prime Video, won't really be used in NFL games. (Well, duh!)
The fun stunt developed with agency Atlantic New York—promising passes of 100 yards or more thanks to advanced aerodynamics (or something)—presumably fooled no one. But the prank generated plenty of buzz for the Sept. 15 debut of Thursday Night Football streaming on Prime Video. The Kansas City Chiefs will host the Los Angeles Chargers in the first regular-season matchup as part of an 11-year deal worth beaucoup bucks.
Here's one of the launch spots from Aug. 30:
Quarterbacks like Russell Willson of the Denver Broncos got in the act, hurling Prime Balls a country mile while keeping a straight face:
Mainstream media and sports bloggers mulled, debated and fretted over the implications of Prime Balls, 33 of which were created by Wilson for the campaign. Everyone knew it was a prank ... still.
Such coverage drove views ahead of the not-so-surprising reveal—featuring Wilson and fellow stars Matthew Stafford, Justin Herbert and Richard Sherman—that brand-boosting fakery was afoot:
And so, real-time NFL games come to the Prime Video app, which boasts some 80 million U.S. subscribers. Thankfully, that funky ball will remain on the sidelines.
Muse caught up with Leo Macias, global VP of marketing and activation at Prime Video and Amazon Studios, who breaks down the Prime Ball experience.
Muse: So, you brainstormed ideas, and somebody said, "Hey! Let's make a wacky football!" Is that how it went down?
Leo Macias: When the news initially broke about Prime Video serving as the new home for Thursday Night Football, a lot of the chatter was about how the game would be changed forever. We decided to play into that conversation with this campaign. The idea was that we would create a stunt to hint that not only is Prime Video changing the way you watch the game, but we're also changing the most important part of the game—the actual football. So, we did just that.
The target audience was hardcore fans?
Prime Video wanted to implement a fun stunt that would remind football fans, especially those hesitant about watching their favorite game via Prime Video, that we aren't changing anything about the game—just where and how you watch it. We really leaned into social media tactics because we saw how active football fans are across these platforms—TikTok, Twitter and Instagram. By tapping major names in the league—Wilson, Stafford, Herbert, Sherman, Rice—and utilizing their social media channels, we knew we would reach our target audience through their fan bases.
Did the intense feedback surprise you? Some of it was negative, bashing Prime Ball as a silly stunt.
Drumming up conversation on social media was a huge element and goal for this stunt. We saw a ton of engagement on TikTok—fans taking over the comments section and even creating their own videos to report on the news. We love the chatter and the buzz. The strong reactions were expected. We actually don't see that as a negative. This is part of what made it a great, buzzed-about conversation.
Beyond buzz, was there a broader business goal? Simply a lot of fans don't know what to expect from Thursday Night Football. How does this address that?
Our goal is to build trust. We get it. This is a new way to watch the game, but we promise, the Thursday Night Football experience will be better than ever, and we hope this fun, lighthearted stunt shows fans that we get where they are coming from and encourages them to tune in to see what the new TNF is all about.
Any thought of mass-producing the balls as collectibles? Maybe use them in contests?
We gave the prototypes away on social media as part of the campaign. There is an opportunity to continue having fun with Thursday Night Football. Fans, stay tuned!
PRIME VIDEO CREATIVES: Leo Macias, Jared Goldsmith, Evan Brady, Ricardo Franco, Angelo Maia
PRIME VIDEO PRODUCTION: Erin Ryder (Lead Creative Producer), Ross Gasmer (Lead Creative Producer), Andy Edwards (Creative Producer),
DIRECTOR: Ari Fararooy
DP: William Start
ADDTL PRODUCTION COMPANY: Ari Fararooy Productions, Andrea Saavedra (Producer)
VIDEO EDITORS/POST TEAM: Dave Nolte (Editor Scratch Creative LA), J.D. Pruess (AV Producer), Ari Fararooy Productions (VFX and Editing)
AGENCY: ATLANTIC NEW YORK
ATLANTIC CO-FOUNDERS, CCOs: João Coutinho and Marco Pupo
ATLANTIC CREATIVES: AO Omar Baker, Elizabeth Cala, Dan Greener, Jessica Morford, Marcelo Romko, Patrick Conlon, Sam Simões
ATLANTIC STRATEGY: Gabriela Conci, Gavin May
ATLANTIC PRODUCTION (VFX Video/Ball Production): Greg Jenkins, Sam Simões, Ben Bentsman, Francisco De Deus
ATLANTIC MANAGING DIRECTOR: Suzanne Barbosa
3D BALL GFX: Fuze Image Maker
SOCIAL MANAGEMENT [Prime Video]: Gigi Clark, Ryan Irwin
VFX Supervisor - Ari Fararooy
Post Producer - Raquel Gonzales
Lead VFX Artist - Ari Fararooy
VFX Artists - Aaron Blanchard, Lauren Riccardi
CG Artists - Sam Leffell, Josh Micley, Angela Gonzales, Alex Katz
Assistant Editor - Alexa Mocley