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Monardo: Pairing sports and pop culture (Oct. 3)

Joseph Monardo | Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The wildly entertaining slate of commercials marched out for the release of Madden ’13 has got me thinking. The commercials, which place Paul Rudd and Ray Lewis together on a couch playing out an endless stream of video game matchups, are pretty near perfect.

One commercial shows the pair collecting delivered Chinese food. Another shows Rudd taunting Lewis with a replay of his touchdown – again, and again and again. Rudd wears a Troy Polamalu jersey and sings “Black and Yellow” and Lewis delivers convincing pep talks (“Madden is home … I am your family!”). All this to say the content of the commercials is genuinely amusing.

However, what really makes the commercials so effective is the relationship between its two characters. I want to believe that Paul and Ray spend time playing a video game as a way to play out a friendly rivalry. I wish that Paul and Ray really did spend time together on a touring troupe in their youth before a dramatic break-up of the group. How cool would it be if Paul actually did teach Ray his trademark dance? Above all, we all wish that Paul and Ray held so strong a bond that they cherished their monogamous gaming relationship so dearly.

This series of commercials has succeeded in presenting a convincing and entertaining story of friendship and Madden between the most feared player in the NFL and one of the best comedic actors of the age. So what other duos could the marketing world create between the world of sports and pop culture? Here are a few suggestions.

Kobe Bryant and Kanye West
The superstar pair, both of whom appeared together in Nike ads earlier this year, carry with them some experience working together to sell … well, what those commercials were selling, I am not sure. And neither was Kanye. But I want to see more of these two together on the small screen. Neither name needs much of an introduction, but I will just say that Kanye West is the Kobe Bryant of rap. And Kobe Bryant is the Kanye West of basketball.

Somebody please put West and Bryant together, regardless of what they are selling. I think they would fit nicely in a car commercial, since Kanye enjoys rapping about them (and cutting them up and riding around in them) and Kobe enjoys jumping over them. Or just put them back in more Nike spots. Let’s make this happen, Nike.

James Harden and Aziz Ansari
This one could be great. Harden has been the victim of Russell Westbrook’s mustard attacks and yelled at Kate Upton in his previous cameos, which has allowed him to display some of the same versatility he shows on the court. The third wheel on one of the NBA’s most exciting teams would finally have the chance to truly shine away from his teammates in an ad with Ansari. The comedian and actor is so entertaining that I could see this duo cashing in on any promotion opportunity.

Whatever the pair would sell, the scene doubtlessly involves Ansari inspecting Harden’s massive beard. Maybe he makes fun of it or tries to grow one of his own. In fact, Nike could rehash the mustard scene with Aziz replacing Westbrook (although, if the point guard’s affinity for the basketball is any indication, he may not be deposed without a fight). Westbrook could just rip off one of his infinite beards and give it to Ansari, who wears it gleefully around town.

Peyton Manning and Butters Stotch
Either this is pure genius or just insanity. But Peyton’s transfer to Denver has placed him right in the vicinity of South Park, Colo. Butters, the hilariously hapless character from the outrageous animated show, would do quite well with the four-time MVP. Manning is a commercial veteran and probably the most accomplished athlete in the field of ad appearances. He has flashed his acting chops before, so why not call on him again?

I see Butters stuttering through a polite request that turns into an ad for the upcoming Broncos game. Then maybe the couple could run some promos for South Park as well. It would be like Denver’s very own power couple (much improved from last year’s Tim Tebow – Demaryius Thomas connection, which took the top spot in the absence of other entrants).

These are only a few ideas I humbly propose. But for now, I am just glad Paul and Ray gave us all an idea of the promotional possibilities out there.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.