Last year, creative agency Los York produced the Clio-winning experiential activation “The Last Shot” for Nike’s Jordan Brand, which put fans in the shoes—literally—of NBA legend Michael Jordan. It was a physical execution of the Brand’s mission to "unleash the MJ in everyone."
Today, Los York and Jordan Brand are launching their latest collaboration, a new 360-campaign called “Welcome to the Playground,” where the focus shifts from the players, to the place, and some of the less tangible things that form the heart and soul of basketball culture.
Jordan Brand always seeks to pull inspiration from its own iconic heritage for its storytelling. "This campaign was inspired by a photograph Michael took in 1984, as part of his first Nike photo shoot on a Chicago playground," says Dexton Deboree, executive creative director of Los York. “The brand literally looked beyond MJ in that photo, and focused on where he was, the playground."
Continues Deboree: “That location was really kind of this epicenter of youth – older generations can remember back to when they spent time on the playground, and current generations can celebrate the fact that they’re on the playground now. It’s also about the whole world and the culture surrounding basketball and everyone involved, whether you play or not.”
In the spot, NBA star Blake Griffin sits in the bleachers absorbing all the activity that goes on beyond the game being played on the court—the jokes, the camaraderie, friendship, community. While the idea itself is powerful in its simplicity, the search for that simplicity was decidedly more complicated. According to Deboree, the initial idea for the spot was a great deal more involved.
“The original idea was to move through these different groups of people at the playground, as we do now, but originally we were actually going to suggest that each group of people were in a different time period,” says Deboree. “We were going to start back in 1984 and move our way through to the present. But it became more of a production puzzle that we weren’t able to overcome.” Moving on from the initial idea refocused the team on what was truly important, the playground itself. That left only one thing for Deboree and his team—finding the perfect blacktop.
“We looked at about 40 different playgrounds around L.A. We set up some filters up front: We don’t want to see any palm trees, because it wants to be sort of a playground anywhere. We had this list of criteria: It has to be urban yet we don’t want there to be buildings in the background, so it needed to be somewhere between urban and rural…or at least suburban. We didn’t want any significant landmarks. Once we ticked all those boxes off, it really left only 2 or 3 that were options. And the one we went with was perfectly contained, it had room on the side for bleachers…the filtration process really helped narrow it all down.”