ESPN’s NBA RV back on the road and hilarious as ever

With the tip-off of a new NBA season on ESPN, the ESPN Marketing team has been busy developing an all new RV Tour campaign. Now six seasons strong, the RV campaign has featured ESPN talent and NBA superstars driving around the country to promote NBA on ESPN coverage.

This year spots showcase ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Breen, Magic Johnson, Doris Burke and Jon Barry on various cross-country adventures with Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, Minnesota Timberwolves teammates Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, New Orleans Hornets rookie Anthony Davis and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul.

Front Row spoke to ESPN’s A.J. Mazza, manager, Marketing, about the evolution of the campaign over the years and what fans can expect to see this season.

Can you talk a little bit about the evolution of the RV campaign?
With Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays being the destination for NBA games on ESPN, the idea of a season-long road trip was a natural fit. The campaign has become one of ESPN’s most beloved and our fans really look forward to it each year.

How do you keep a campaign like this fresh?
It’s not always easy, as there are only so many “road trip” type jokes. However, our creative agency, Wieden + Kennedy, has done a fantastic job keeping it fresh every year. They use insights and storylines from the past or upcoming season, and build a unique concept around it that fits into the RV campaign. Russell Westbrook and his fashionable glasses are a perfect example.

Jeff Van Gundy (top) and Mike Breen

What did you enjoy most about this year’s campaign?
The NBA talent we had this year were really special. We had four gold medal-winning US Olympians (Paul, Westbrook, Davis and Love), as well as one international Olympian (Ricky Rubio). Seeing the players and ESPN talent mesh was a lot of fun. Several players had the opportunity to film with Magic Johnson, and they were definitely excited about that.

How does the theme of the RV tour really speak to ESPN’s NBA coverage?
Our brand promise is to cover sports with authority and personality, and ESPN’s humorous nature can be seen throughout each RV spot. We have a unique set of NBA personalities on our air, and we try to incorporate that into the RV campaign. Jeff is known for his one liners and zany take on the game, while Breen is as steady behind the mic as they come. You’ll notice these attributes are reflected in their roles on the RV.

Any anecdotes from filming?
The RV experienced some mechanical difficulties on the way to the shoot in LA, and arrived the night before filming was set to begin. During some down time between spots, Mike attended a Jeopardy taping on the sound stage next door to where we were filming.

ESPN will tip-off its 2012-13 NBA regular-season schedule tomorrow, with the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat and reigning MVP LeBron James visiting the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony at 8 p.m. ET. In the nightcap, ESPN will televise a “Battle for L.A.” game as the Los Angeles Lakers — led by Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard — will take on the Los Angeles Clippers and their superstar duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin at 10:30 p.m. Join Front Row for a live blog leading up to and during the season debut of KIA NBA Countdown, beginning at 6:30 p.m.