It'll be hard to miss the NFL's latest ad blitz, which launches on Dec. 17 and will air until the end of the playoffs. The commercials feature voice-overs by actor Samuel L. Jackson and star 32 playoff-bound players. In a typical spot, Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet talks about what he has had to overcome since graduating from Hofstra: "Five-foot-10. Not even drafted. You know I'm going to show you something."
The NFL tapped filmmaker Spike Lee to create the ambitious ads because, says league spokesman Brian McCarthy, "we wanted to do something over the top. Spike's storytelling ability and the way he translates intensity onto the screen are what sold us on him." Lee, who created the memorable Mars Blackmon ads for Nike in the late '80s and early '90s, saw an opportunity to increase the visibility of his four-year-old ad agency, SpikeDDB, and indulge his fan side. "I love all sports," says Lee. "People think all I follow is basketball, but that's not true. I have a great rapport with all athletes, and that enhances the product."
Over the last five years ratings for the playoffs have steadily declined, which is why the league felt the need for something other than a standard NFL Films-type promotional push. How wide is the league casting its net for fans? The spots will even be turning up on daytime soap operas.