By Barry Janoff
August 6, 2013: This past October, NBC Universal unveiled a three-year deal for rights to broadcast the prestigious Barclays English Premier League. The financial package was put at $250 million by industry analysts.
With the first game scheduled to air on Aug. 17, NBC Sports has launched a multi-platform campaign to get viewers up to speed.
Barclays EPL is home to several iconic soccer clubs, including Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City. The campaign, under the umbrella theme, "It’s Football . . . Just Not As You Know It," targets not only loyal followers of soccer, but also casual and non-soccer followers.
The effort is anchored by a humorous TV spot starring Jason Sudeikis, a cast member of NBC's Saturday Night Live from 2005-13 and co-star with Jennifer Aniston in the new film, We're The Millers.
The commercial runs five minutes on YouTube but has been cut down to 30-second spots for broadcast purposes. In it, Sudeikis plays the fictional new head coach of the Tottenham Hotspur, Teddy Lasso, an American football coach hired to take the helm at the English Premier League club, whose knowledge of NFL football does not translate to international football.
Activation also includes out-of-home marketing such as a subway trains and London-style taxis in New York wrapped in NBC Sports-EPL signage, “trainers” on the streets handing out EPL-branded towels and water bottles, billboards, a tie-in with online food delivery service Seamless.com offering discounts on breakfast items on Saturday game days in August under a “Breakfast in Bed with the Premier League” theme and social media destinations at Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others.
NBC Sports said that people would have access to all 380 games of the Barclays Premier League — including 76 Spanish-language telecasts — via a host of options from August through May: NBC, NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports Live Extra, Premier League Extra Time, Telemundo, Mun2 and other NBC Universal channels.
NBC Sports' coverage will be supported by a bevy of pre- and post-game content and other shows specific to the EPL coverage. These include Premier League 36 (which follows athletes for the 36 hours leading up to a game), Premier League Goal Zone (highlighting all the goals of the weekend) Match of the Day and the Barclay’s Premier League Preview/Review/World.
The TV spots with Sudeikis, "An American Coach In London," highlight the campaign's theme "It’s Football . . . Just Not As You Know It." His character, Teddy Lasso, knows all about U.S. football, but is having trouble translating that to the pitch in the U.K..
At his first press conference after arriving from America, Lasso proclaims, "Football is football no matter where you play it. You have grass, you have cleats and you have helmets with masks on them . . . My team is going to play hard for all four quarters." When a British reporter corrects him by saying, "Two halves," Coach Lasso responds, "My team is going to play hard for two halves. And we're going to play until there's a winner and a loser." To which another reporter yells, "We have ties," with Lasso saying without missing a beat, "We're going to play until there's a winner, a loser or a tie."
When asked about his goals, Lasso offers, "We're going to win a lot of games and get into the playoffs." Again, he is corrected by the British sports reporters. "No playoffs." "Ties and no playoffs!?" says Lasso. "My job just got a lot easier . . . Why do you even do this!?"
On the practice field, he teaches NFL-style football tackling and shows his lack of soccer knowledge when he asks, "Why are they passing the ball backward? Why are the scores so low? He just hit the ball with his head . . . is that legal?"
Lasso and his assistant then use American images to help him memorize the clubs in the EPL. "Manchester United," his assistant says. "Super rich. Everybody either loves them or hates them." Lasso replies, "The Dallas Cowboys." "Liverpool — used to be great, haven't won a title in a really long time." "Also the Dallas Cowboys," Lasso replies. "Cardiff City, dragons on the crest," says the assistant. To which Lasso responds, "Khalessi, that really hot girl from Game of Thrones."
Ultimately, Lasso tries to earn the respect of his players by going through an entire day without using his hands, including opening doors, flushing toilets and driving a golf cart. He soon earns the nickname "Wanker," which Lasso incorrectly defines as "someone who is great . . . a nice guy."
"Ties and no playoffs!?" proclaims Teddy Lasso. "My job just got a lot easier . . . Why do you even do this!?"
Lasso vows to remain with the Hotspur forever. Moments later, his cell phone buzzes. "Oh," he says. "I just got fired." (See the full spot here.)
“The NBC Sports Group has an excellent track record in sports broadcasting and will showcase the Barclays Premier League to fans across the USA through its extensive network of channels and high quality production,” Richard Scudamore CEO for the Barclays EPL, said at the time the deal was unwrapped. “We are extremely pleased that NBC has chosen to invest in the Premier League and look forward to working with them for many years to come.”
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