Recipe Ingredient #6 To Make A Bad Radio Or Television Commercial: Sports Celebrities

Sports stars are sports stars because they can throw a ball, run or skate really fast, tackle, etc. better than anyone else on the planet.

They’re not actors or voice actors.

So why do sports teams insist on trying to transform them from athletes to actors? Very few have ever been successful at it.

That said, I understand the desire to use a sports celebrity in a commercial. After all,  it makes sense to have a player on the air promoting his/her “bobble-head night”, “poster night”, etc., right? Yes…

But…when the celebrity sounds tired, lazy, or bothered by having to do the ad, that comes across glaringly on the air. Thus compromising the potential effectiveness of the commercial.


The process usually goes like this:

  1. It’s (celebrity’s whatever promotional item) day/night.
  2. Write uninspired script.
  3. Schedule studio time for celebrity to record uninspired commercial.
  4. Record / produce uninspired commercial.
  5. Uninspired commercial airs.
  6. Result = ?


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recorded pro athletes. Almost always, there’s a sense of, “we don’t want to upset them because they could kill us with their bare hands”-tension in the studio.


What is the ultimate goal? To make an effective commercial, or not to hack off the jock?


Yes, the players are usually on a tight time schedule. Some view recording commercials as a pain (especially if it’s a station promotion = no money for the player), while some others truly enjoy it.


If (and that’s a big “if”) you have control over the copy, why not make it fun?

Anyone can write or produce: “Hey this is Bob Jones, and this Friday is my bobble-head night at the stadium. The first 15,000 fans in attendance receive my bobble-head courtesy of Mega-World Bank”.


How about: “I’m Bob Jones…and at 6 feet 5 inches tall, I’d probably get in the way standing on your desk. I also weigh 230 pounds…so I might break it. But my bobble-head will fit perfectly. Get to the stadium early, because only 15,000 people will get one…and I hope you do.”

Then throw in the sponsor mention in an announcer tag at the end of the spot.

The script is completely relatable to the athlete, because it’s true. You’re not typing out a bunch of words on paper, filling their head with it, and expecting them to read it convincingly. 


  1. When you can, have fun with the script! Or let the Marketing Department help write it, develop concepts, etc.
  2. Tell the athlete the vision of the commercial/promo, whatever.
  3. It’s a fine balance – “entertaining” doesn’t always mean “effective”.
ESPN has made some great athlete-driven promos over the years. This is a promo to watch Sports Center, but why not take the same attitude with your team promotional nights (when appropriate)? Being from Cincinnati, I couldn’t resist:

Tim Burt

About timburtmedia

30,000+ ads globally. Commercial Advertising Marketing - world-wide audio producer, voice-over talent, copywriter.
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