(Ed. note: Who doesn't like a little prognostication for awards season? To that end, and leading up to our coverage at Cannes, we engaged four ad schools and asked them, along with some of The Drum's editorial staff, to weigh in on specific creative, if it will win a Cannes Lion and, if so, which ones. Feel free to add your own comments and we'll see who is right at the end of June.)
In its first foray into brand advertising, Bleacher Report hit the world by storm with an animated film remixing Blackalicious’s iconic “Alphabet Aerobics.” The result, “#SportsAlphabet,” is a visual and auditory masterstroke that intensifies in speed as it goes through the ABCs — but riffing on everything sports for each letter. The work was led by San Francisco-based independent barrettSF, with Gentleman Scholar stepping up to animate the film with 26 unique styles, one for each letter of the alphabet.
“The Bleacher Report brand is getting bigger and louder, so we wanted to create a spot that was... big and loud,” said Dorth Raphaely, Bleacher Report General Manager.
At the beginning of the film, the original lyrics, “Artificial amateurs aren't at all amazing. Analytically, I assault, animate things” transforms to “Alley-alley-alley-alley-oop on amateurs, air above all and any actors that’s average” set against an animated backdrop of “cool alley cats” playing basketball. Throughout the song and video, viewers are treated to some serious density and highly-engaging craft that demands ones attention.
“This project is about collaboration and risk,” said Pete Harvey, Executive Creative Director of barrettSF. “Bleacher Report is sticking themselves out there with a film that rewrites the sports alphabet, and asked us, alongside Gentlemen Scholar, to surprise people with the execution.”
Surprise indeed, but will it walk away with a coveted Cannes Lion this June?
Seb Joseph, News Editor, The Drum
Now this is what I’m talking about. From the moment Blackalicious’ starts this sports-centric version of “Alphabet Aerobics”, with Alley-alley-alley-alley-oop on amateurs / Air above all and any actors that’s average,” Bleacher Report’s ad had me. Moving from CGI, to Japanese anime, stop motion animation to pop art, the deftly flips between different styles in time with the different sports publisher covers. The “Sports Alphabet,” much like the track that inspired it, uses alliteration to flow through the 26 letters all the while making references to different sports and picking up speed. What better way to show your fans you really care about the work you do.
Tristan Amadeus, Student, School of Communication Arts 2.0
Twenty-six stories, in twenty-six styles, in just two minutes. Normally, I would have passed this concept off as a glorified torrent of gifs. However, ‘Sports Alphabet’ is a charming assault on the eyes that keeps you coming back for more. Each scene ‘Blacklicious’ spits over is like a visceral Vine dipped in gold bubble gum and sent from the future. Maybe it’s a combination of our ever-shortening attention spans and desensitised minds, but this frenetic salmagundi is a gestalt I won’t be forgetting quickly. If Bleacher Report doesn’t pick up a Lion at Cannes, I’ll eat my gif.
Prediction: Well, a win, that's for sure. Particularly in branded content & entertainment and creative effectiveness.
Doug Zanger, North America Editor at Large, The Drum
I had been a little out of the loop on creative work when this dropped back in December. When I first saw it on TV, though, during March Madness, I rewound it three times thinking “what was that?!!” I knew the Blackalicious song and it immediately hooked me in and made me want more. I’m a causal Bleacher Report fan, but this not only connected perfectly with the brand, it was some true “breakthrough” work. I agree 100% with some of the YouTube comments like: “arguably the greatest YouTube ad I’ve ever been hit with,” “a prime example of what dope is” and “feeling really bad for people that use AdBlock now.”
Prediction: Gold in film and Grand Prix (I hope) in film craft (animation)
Title: “Sports Alphabet”
Client: Bleacher Report
Creative Credits: Bleacher Report “Sports Alphabet” Agency: barrettSF
Agency Location: San Francisco, CA
Executive Creative Directors: Pete Harvey & Jamie Barrett
Associate Creative Director: Brad Kayal
Senior Copywriter: Jake Reilly
Art Director: Byron Wages
Senior Producer: Nicole Van Dawark
Producer: Patrick Wilkinson
Associate Producer: Charlotte Dugoni Managing Director: Patrick Kelly
Account Director: Molly Warner
Production Company: Gentleman Scholar
Directors: William Campbell & Will Johnson
Executive Producer: Jo Arghiris
Head of Production: Rachel Kaminek
Associate Creative Director: John-Patrick Rooney
Art Director: Jordan Lyle
CG Supervisor: Tim Hayward
Producer: Nikki Maniolas
Associate Producer: Nicole Smarsh
Design: Trevor Conrad, Chris Finn, Sarah Beth Hulver, Jordan Lyle, Macauley Johnson, John-Patrick Rooney, Calla Donofrio, Hana Eunjin Yean
2D Animation: Chris Finn, Sarah Beth Hulver, Jordan Lyle, Macauley Johnson, John-Patrick Rooney, Shawn Kim
Cel Animation: Tristan Balos, Taik Lee, Stephanie Simpson, Harry Teitelman
Character Animation: Blake Beynon, James Lane