By Barry Janoff
December 10, 2014: It seems as if ESPN and Blake Griffin are not afraid to get their Web sites, Facebook or Twitter pages hacked.
The self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports" and the All-Star forward for the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers are part of a new campaign to support The Interview, a movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, scheduled for release on Christmas Day.
The plot involves Rogen as TV personality Dave Skylark and Franco as his producer, Aaron Rapoport, on the low-brow news program, Skylark Tonight. When they learn that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of their show, they secure an in-person interview with him and plan a trip to Pyongyang in an effort to raise their stature as and among journalists. But the CIA recruits them to assassinate Jong-un.
While this makes for potentially humorous situations on-screen, there are thos in the real world who are not laughing. Hackers infiltrated production company Sony's Web site and made public a bevy of secure documents relating to Sony's business and future production plans, and threatened to continue to do so unless "the movie of terrorism" (a shaded reference to The Interview) was pulled from release.
Using marketing in the face of danger, this leg of the movie's campaign finds Rogen and Franco in the ESPN facilities in Los Angeles pitching stories to Griffin.
"We're putting a movie together and we're looking for some athletes," Rogen says to Griffin. "Want to hear some ideas?"
Griffin is into it, even when the ideas prove to be wacky. ""You're a genie," Rogen and Franco say to Griffin. "You live in a boom-box. You have a whole purple get-up. Street-smart. You're funny, But you're lovable."
Another idea: "You are a Golden Retriever," they say to Griffin. "But you can play basketball! We'll find a dog that looks like you! But the dog doesn't talk. It only 'woofs.' Woof for us."
Griffin passes but comes back with an idea of his own. "Cartoons. Ducks. Rabbits. Stuttering hunters. A skunk that is deeply in love. They are at war with aliens. Cartoons come and get me to play some basketball," pretty much describing the plot of 1996's Space Jam with Michael Jordan.
The spot is running across ESPN networks and online, with support from social media including Facebook and Twitter. (See the full spot here.)
Aside from the hacking of Web sites and the proposed assassination of a North Korean dictator, the collaboration here is reminiscent of a campaign earlier this year "from the (same) Western Capitalist Pigs who brought you" Neighbors, also starring Rogen. The Neighbors effort saw Rogen and co-star Zak Efron confront NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers (who they know as the "State Farm guy") in a weight room, with a tie-in for ESPN. (See it here.)
Rogen and Franco defused The Interview hackers' threats during a monologue on Saturday Night Live this past weekend (Dec. 6). Among other hot-points, Franco revealed his e-mail address (CuterThanDaveFranco@aol.com), Rogan disclosed that there were photos on his phone of Franco helping him to try on pantyhose and another image of the two actors reenacting the iconic photograph of a naked John Lennon curled up in bed with Yoko Ono.
No word whether The Interview marketing crew considered using Dennis Rodman instead of Griffin.
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