I’m fairly certain Buzz Bovshow never thought he ever would be cast as Michael Jordan. Bovshow is a 55-year old TV, movie and theater actor with the requisite middle-aged paunch. Oh, he also is white.
Of course, if you saw the latest ESPN ad, you know the rest of the story. Bovshow didn’t play the Michael Jordan. Rather, his character, saddled with the burden of carrying the same name as the basketball legend, is an amazingly bland lump of a man, who couldn’t light up a room if you gave him a blow torch. (Judging by Bovshow’s picture and bio, I bet he’s a fun guy in real life, and what a great name.)
Bovshow also is an unlikely candidate to be an ESPN sensation, but he has gone viral in one of the network’s most celebrated ads in years. More than two million people have checked it out on YouTube since the 30-second commercial debuted on April 16. The spot depicts people disappointed at not meeting the Michael Jordan.
The ad, conceived by Wieden + Kennedy, also is hot on Twitter. It prompted this tweet from Michael B. Jordan, the actor who played Vince on Friday Night Lights:
Do u know how hard it was to grow up with the Greatest Basketball Player in the world’s name?
Naturally, ESPN is overjoyed with the response.
“To get that many (YouTube views) in such a short time is remarkable.” said Chris Brush, who now is ESPN’s Sr VP of Affiliate Marketing, but was VP of Consumer Marketing while working on the Jordan commercial.
It speaks to the power of the ad, which runs as part of ESPN’s “It’s not crazy, It’s sports” campaign. Unlike those Super Bowl ads that try way, way too hard, the Jordan commercial is wonderfully understated and subtle. This is about split-second reactions from people who suddenly realize they aren’t going to have their once-in-a-lifetime encounter with MJ.
“I liked the first (scene) when he goes to the doctor’s office,” Brush said. “Those women are buried in their work when they hear, ‘Michael Jordan.’ They look up quickly, and for an instant, you can see they thought he was the real thing.”
We also can feel for the poor shlub. Bozshow’s Jordan acknowledges people’s reactions perfectly with a resigned shrug or nod. Nothing more needs to be said.
Brush said the point of the campaign is to show the intersection of sports and real life.
“Cities are defined by their sports legends,” Brush said. “In San Francisco, there’s only one Joe Montana. In Boston, there’s only one Ted Williams. And in Chicago, there’s definitely only one Michael Jordan. There isn’t room for another Michael Jordan. People can relate to this guy’s situation. They recognize the fun and irony of this idea.”
Brush said Jordan’s representatives knew of the ad in advance and they liked the finished product. Interestingly, Jordan never has appeared in an ESPN commercial.
Hey, how about a sequel? Perhaps showing a meeting between the two Jordans?
“We have no plans right now for a sequel,” Brush said. “But we love the reaction. We’re going to evaluate where the campaign goes and what the next idea is.”