New ads spotlight fans' passion
'I Live For This' spots, companion Web site to debut Monday
Jacqueline Parkes, MLB's senior vice president of advertising and marketing, had a pretty good idea of what to expect when fans were given the opportunity to audition this winter for an appearance in the latest round of "I Live For This" TV commercials.
But she couldn't imagine how big the response would be in this twist on Major League Baseball's popular advertising campaign. The first of those six 30-second spots -- where 13 fans will stand out from the crowd -- will air Monday, giving a nationwide audience the chance to see the kind of devotion that Parkes and her team saw up close during the search.
"It was incredible," said Parkes. "From market to market, it just reinforced the strength of each fan base. Their passion of the game is as strong as the players' -- it really mirrors the passion the players have on the field. In each market, there are unique attributes that fans have. Whether it's a sea of red in St. Louis, the Green Monster in Fenway ... there are ingrained equities that each club has in their market that are so special to these fans, and that holds a place beyond sports that is part of their lives. It's a tremendous privilege that Major League Baseball has, to be part of that culture in such a unique way.
"These fans came out in blizzard conditions, in rain, withstanding pretty bad situations to come out and audition for this opportunity. The ones who won really felt a tremendous responsibility to make sure they represented their market well. It was powerful to see how seriously they took it, to make sure they represented their clubs and their fellow fans. It was a great thing."
The new spots feature fans from six teams that participated in the 2004 postseason -- the Red Sox, Cardinals, Astros, Yankees, Angels and Dodgers. Representative fans from each team were selected from open casting calls, which drew more than 2,000 people, that took place in each market between Jan. 22 and Feb. 2.
"Going into it, we underestimated the challenge it would be to select the market for each group of fans," Parkes said. "We thought we'd pick one person. But then, people came in with cousins or sisters or friends, and in some of [the auditions] we had to have two or three or four people. That was the story. The creative had to change based on the story that was told by the fans.
"How real and authentic and powerful it was to do commercials with real fans. It's the first time we've ever done anything like that before. In the past, it's been with players, or it's been shots of fans in the stands. This is real reality TV, if you will, for advertising spots."
Fans selected for the commercials told attention-getting stories about their endless devotion to Major League Baseball and their favorite teams. The 13 fans who were selected for the six commercials were: Red Sox fans Karen Fogerty and Cheryl DiRocco; Astros fans Josh Galla and Idrees Tily; Angels fans George, Jason, Jeff and Mike Abraham; Dodgers fan Luis Perez; Yankees fans Sean Mannion, Miguel Alvarez and Karlton Craig; and Cardinals fan Laura Janaske.
The finalists were flown to Miami during the week of Feb. 14 to shoot the spots. Peter Gilbert of Non-Fiction Spots, who directed the first series of "I Live For This" commercials and directed the documentary "Hoop Dreams," directed the commercials.
The new commercials will run through April 30 on ESPN, FOX, TBS and MLB.com. Since being introduced in September 2003, the "I Live For This" campaign has highlighted the passion and intensity Major League Baseball players exhibit for the game of baseball. Showcasing that passion held by the game's fans became viewed as a natural evolution to the campaign.
The culmination of the fan casting project coincides with the launch of ILiveForThis.com. The Web site, created by MLB.com, is a way to celebrate all Major League fans and highlight people who came out to show their extraordinary devotion. The site will feature outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage of the auditions, the new national TV commercials, a chance to vote for your favorite ads and a chance to order an "I Live For This" T-shirt.
"Our fans exhibit an extraordinary level of passion for the game of baseball," said Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president of business. "The excitement generated by the fan casting-call project and the new 'I Live For This' spots illustrate the intense dedication and enthusiasm our fans have for their favorite teams and players."
One of the most commonly asked questions during the auditioning process was whether fans of the non-participating 24 Major League clubs would be able to get in on the fun. Parkes was asked how she would respond to those fans, who are bound to ask the same thing after getting a glimpse of people who act a lot like them.
"We'll be back on road at an undisclosed time," she said. "So keep on the lookout."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.