ESPN Buttons Up Levi’s Sponsorship for Docu ’30 for 30′

ESPN has signed Levi’s as the presenting sponsor of its documentary series 30 for 30, a slate of films that will serve as the centerpiece of the network’s thirtieth anniversary celebration.
Per terms of the deal, Levi’s will lead off each film with a branded 45-second “Director’s Statement,” in which the creative force behind the camera reflects on his motivation for making the movie viewers are about to see. For example, in the run-up to his entry, Jordan Rides the Bus, director Ron Shelton says he hopes to dispel some of the lingering misconceptions that surround Michael Jordan’s Quixotic attempt to break into the Major Leagues in 1994.
Levi’s will close the bracket with a second Director’s Statement, which will run at the end of each 30 for 30 film. The brand also has the option to take over a 60-second commercial pod leading into the third act.
The sponsorship extends through the first 15 films, with Levi’s reserving the right of first refusal to continue on with the latter half of the series.
The Levi’s logo and tag line (“Go Forth”) will appear at the bottom right of the screen throughout the 45-second opening and closing clips. The deal also includes integration across several ESPN platforms, including presence on the 30 for 30 micro site.
(Wieden + Kennedy Portland launched Levi’s Go Forth effort in early summer, taking the wraps off a campaign that pays homage to the 136-year-old brand’s trailblazing past, while elevating its sex appeal. The company’s annual measured U.S. media spend is around $80 million, per Nielsen data.)
Contextually, Levi’s ongoing look down both ends of the timeline appears an apt fit for the 30 for 30 project, which also speaks in two different verb tenses. With contributions from the likes of Shelton (Bull Durham), Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), Steve James (Hoop Dreams), Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens) and Barry Levinson (Diner), the series is at once a distillation of ESPN’s 30-year history and a mission statement for its future.

Omnicom’s OMD handles all media buying and planning for Levi’s.

Also lending its support to the doc series is Honda, which will serve as associate sponsor of the first 15 films. As part of its package, the automaker will own an isolated pod in the second act, in which it will showcase its own documentary initiative, “Dream the Impossible.”
Depending on the clip it chooses to preview on a given night, the Honda pod will command between 90 and 120 seconds of airtime. In one execution, culled from a longer piece titled “Failure: The Secret to Success,” racer Danica Patrick recounts a crash that sent her to the hospital.
Banners on the 30 for 30 site redirect to Honda’s Dream the Impossible site (, where consumers can stream the four short films in the series. Honda also owns the 15-second pre-roll that leads into the archived video content on the 30 for 30 page. The two-minute “Failure” excerpt is also available on the site as a standalone offering.
Honda in 2008 ranked 41st among sports advertisers, spending $52.2 million, or 26 percent of its total media outlay ($201.2 million), per Nielsen.
The first installment of the 30 for 30 series bows tonight (Oct. 6) at 8 p.m., as ESPN presents Kings Ransom, Berg’s look at the aftermath of the blockbuster 1988 trade that sent Wayne Gretzky from Edmonton to Los Angeles. Next week, the network premieres The Band That Wouldn’t Die, Levinson’s account of how the Baltimore Colts marching band persisted for a dozen years after Robert Irsay’s pre-dawn caravan spirited away the franchise and broke Charm City’s heart.
“We’re trying to build a Tuesday night habit, and we think we’ll be able to build on some of the excellent buzz we’ve been getting leading into the launch,” said Ed Erhardt, president, ESPN/ABC Sports customer sales & marketing. “These films amplify how sports reflect the lives of fans and athletes, and advertisers always seem to take a real interest in that sort of content.”