Nike invades 'SportsCenter'


For the first time in the show's history, ESPN's SportsCenter will be "taken over" Wednesday, with all commercial pods featuring original content created for Nike by independent Wieden + Kennedy, according to the agency.

Promoted by 15-second teasers that broke on ESPN's Web site last weekend (along with ads in ESPN: The Magazine and Slam), the effort debuts in earnest today with the sponsorship takeover orchestrated by Danny Sheniak, media director at the Portland, Ore.-based agency.

All told, 10 minutes of mainly humorous material will air, introduced by Epoch Films' director Stacy Wall, who provides a tongue-in-cheek "director's commentary" throughout.

The work centers on fictitious relatives of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James. Spots are set in a backyard pool, on a street court and in various Cleveland locations. One segment shows the city as it would appear if used as the backdrop for a Hollywood-style urban drama. The overall campaign tagline is, "We are all witnesses."

The effort promotes James' new signature shoe from Nike.

"SportsCenter will air just before the [Cleveland-Washington] game, which will be [this season's] first ESPN game LeBron James has played in," said Sheniak, who said the deal had been in the works for two months.

Outdoor campaign components include gigantic product shots of James' new shoe (due in stores Nov. 16), as well as a Las Vegas-style neon billboard of the player's silhouette with a blinking tattoo that reads "Witness."

That billboard will be placed in New York near Madison Square Garden in time for the Cleveland Cavaliers' Nov. 12 appearance at the venue, Sheniak said.

Nike spent slightly less than $200 million on U.S. ads last year and more than $120 million through August 2006, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky has been in talks with Nike about an undisclosed assignment, according to sources.

Discussions between the Miami-based agency and the athletic apparel giant in Beaverton, Ore., began this summer when Nike approached the MDC Partners shop about handling an assignment for the Nike+ brand, sources said. CP+B turned down that project, but agency and client continue to discuss working together in some capacity, per sources.