Samsung Shoots, Scores With ESPN at NBA Finals

Viewers watching the NBA Finals also saw an ad campaign for Samsung Mobile phone created in real time by ESPN’s CreativeWorks unit.

The campaign featured Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams acting as a sideline reporter capturing pictures and video of the action at the Finals using Samsung’s Galaxy S4 phone. Spots ran before each game introducing Williams and his phone, and his pictures and videos would be shown in a spot running in the third quarter.

Samsung has also been using NBA star LeBron James as spokesman, so Samsung got a bonus when James’ team, the Miami Heat, played in and won the Finals.

The ads were produced on site at the arenas during the game, a first for ESPN CreativeWorks, which creates advertising and promotional content for sponsors.

“There were some challenges, but it was a lot of fun to do and it was a great showcase for CreativeWorks and Samsung,” said Sean Hanrahan, senior VP, marketing solutions, ESPN Customer Marketing and Sales.

The idea for a real-time campaign came out of conversations between the network and the client. “Real time became important because you could best showcase the features of the phone, which make it unique, and make the brand relevant in the moment during the biggest sports property of the moment, the NBA Finals,” Hanrahan said. “It took the product demonstration, if you will, to a whole other level.”

In the spirit of the quickly produced “I’m going to Disneyland” spots that have followed Super Bowls, when James’ Heat won the Finals, CreativeWorks took one of Samsung’s commercials featuring James, added some video from Game 7 and modified the tagline to read: “The next big thing is here. Again. Congratulations LeBron. Samsung Galaxy.

In addition to the TV commercials, the content shot by Williams was posted on a special section of, and was distributed socially via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where they could be accessed via mobile.

Hanrahan said producing the campaign required teamwork between the ESPN crew producing the game and CreativeWorks staffers, as well as the cooperation of the client. “Samsung is a great partner. It’s happening fast, we’ve got to get the ads on air. It’s important to be in the moment and they understood that.”

Hanrahan said he didn’t know when the next real-time campaign would air. “We’re just proud that CreativeWorks is clearly establishing themselves as a terrific source for advertisers and clients to produce great content and I think this will allow us to continue to do more of these things,” he said.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.