Thursday, ESPN launched its latest This Is SportsCenter ad, another spoof of life in the company’s cubicles and corridors.
In the new, 15-second spot, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist — making his second TISC appearance this winter — forgets that it’s casual Friday.
His “co-workers” — SportsCenter anchors Lindsay Czarniak, Kevin Negandhi and John Buccigross — watch as Lundqvist waddles into the office in NHL gear.
Listen closely to Czarniak’s dialogue and you’ll hear her reference an actual ESPN colleague who’s not seen in this particular spot, but he’s had a hand in many of the franchise’s commercials.
“I think GMat’s on vacation,” Czarniak says, referencing Gerry Matalon, ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer.
Among his many duties at ESPN, Matalon works with ESPN’s marketing team and the advertising agency behind the TISC series, W+K New York, to secure requested ESPN “talent” for the spots that usually also feature athletes, mascots and other celebrities.
Matalon credits Craig Bengtson, Vice President, SportsCenter, and his fellow Senior CPs for helping him determine SportsCenter anchor and analyst availability.
“And we have to look at when the athletes are coming in. If they’re coming in the morning and [the script calls for SportsCenter anchor] Steve Levy and he works at night,” Matalon said, “what do we do?
“If we have to have Steve Levy, do I have to take him off the 11 [p.m. ET SportsCenter]? Is that an option, is that the best thing for the show?”
The process can be complicated but “it’s a very cool partnership and one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on in my 25 years,” at ESPN, Matalon said.
He was touched by Czarniak’s mention of him in the ad-libbed conversation with Negandhi and Buccigross.
“I was really flattered. I didn’t know Lindsay was going to it,” Matalon said.
His high school lacrosse coach, the late George Baron, “used to call me GMat, and I use the moniker socially because he was really tough, really disciplined, and really pushed for excellence. . . The fact that she said that was cool. I’m hoping he catches on to that, even though he’s probably in heaven yelling at somebody else.”
“I didn’t even think about it. We were literally just improvising conversation about swapping schedules,” said Czarniak, who is making her SportsCenter commercial debut.
“GMat is such an institution here,” she said. “He’s a big reason I ended up at ESPN and it was my first thought that I would run the ‘schedule swap’ by GMat.”
Even though Matalon has worked closely with the commercial franchise, he’s appeared in just one of the spots.
In the mid-1990s sketch below featuring a debate about Roger Clemens’ fastball, Matalon is seated between bearded Vince Doria, ESPN Senior Vice President and Director of News, and former SportsCenter anchor Keith Olbermann. Former anchor Jack Edwards earns The Rocket’s wrath.
ICYMI: Highlights from the past week on Front Row
• ESPN’s Joe Tessitore introduced the four-legged Joe Tess, a three-year-old Dark Bay colt owned by his friends George Bolton and Barbara Banke. The horse makes his debut today at the Santa Anita race track in Southern California.
• ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg and his wife Stacy Greenberg introduced the main characters in Greenberg’s new book, All You Could Ask For, which will be released by William Morrow on April 2.
• ESPN college basketball analyst Bruce Pearl recalls the 2008 tornado that hit downtown Atlanta during the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Georgia Dome. The extreme weather events are the subject of the new SEC Storied documentary, Miracle 3.
• Coordinating producer Amy Rosenfeld and producer Chris Alexopoulos shared insights about their crews and coverage of the upcoming 18th season of MLS on ESPN.
Row of Four
Our favorites from across ESPN over the past week continue reading…