NFL, Spike Lee Team Up in Ads

Thursday December 7 4:19 PM ET

NEW YORK (AP) – The National Football League has hired movie and commercial maker Spike Lee to direct an advertising blitz aimed at boosting viewership of its upcoming playoff games.

The campaign represents the NFL’s most ambitious push to promote its playoff games and comes as ratings have slipped for its regular season game telecasts.

The ads, which will debut Dec. 17 and run at least 225 times by Jan. 14, will carry the theme “Show Me Something” and feature as many as 35 players from 15 teams.

They will run throughout the day on the four networks that carry NFL games – ABC, CBS, Fox and ESPN – as part of their contracts to carry NFL games.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said it would have cost $20 million to buy the time.

“We want to brand the playoffs in a way that matches the intensity fans and the players have for the championship season in a way that has not been done in sports,” McCarthy said. The playoffs start Dec. 30 and end Jan. 28 with the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

Lee, who won wide attention in the mid-1980s with Nike ads in which he posed as a worshipful fan of basketball’s Michael Jordan and now heads his own ad agency in addition to making films, approached the league about promoting the postseason.

McCarthy said the ads reflect “the inner voice of the player” as he concentrates on getting to the Super Bowl. “The idea was that it has been a great season, you’ve showed me a lot but now it’s time to show me something,” he said.

The ads were shot over the past two weeks in Tampa and Chicago. The sessions produced material for dozens of ads that will be used nationally or in local markets. Merchandise with the ad slogan may also go on sale soon.

NFL ratings have been lower this year. Through the first 14 weeks of the season, Monday Night Football on ABC has averaged a rating of 12.7 compared with 13.8 a year earlier. The other networks have shown similar declines. Each ratings point represents a little more than 1 million television households.

McCarthy said the NFL had to compete for viewers with the Summer Olympics (news – web sites) in September and the season started a week early over the Labor Day weekend when many people are away from home.

He said ratings typically rise during the playoffs and said the NFL has traditionally beaten the playoff ratings for the other major sports.