It’s hard to believe it was ever a tough task to convince athletes and celebrities to appear on ESPN-TV’s now-famous “This is SportsCenter” promotional ads.

These days, an appearance in a long-running commercial campaign is considered not only a mark of achievement but also validation of someone’s status as a bona fide sports star.

Stephen King needs neither of those. He just thought it would be a fun way to further cement his standing as one of the most well known passionate Boston Red Sox fans.

“I don’t think it was a tough sell. The Red Sox play such an important role in his life and matter so much, he kind of liked being involved and show his passion for the team,” said Alex Green, associate marketing manager for ESPN. “When he saw the script and saw he got to acknowledge that Boston beat the Yankees, I’m sure that helped.”

King, a Bangor resident and best-selling novelist, is the central character in the latest ad promoting SportsCenter. In the spot, SportsCenter anchor John Anderson talks about how he and his peers usually write the majority of their scripts and copy themselves, but that every now and then, they bring a “ghost writer.”

The scene shifts to a cubicle where King, wearing a Red Sox cap while hunched over a manual typewriter, is writing some on-air copy about a Boston win over the New York Yankees. Anderson compliments him on it, but says that he thinks Boston won because of its clutch hitting, not due to the fact the Yankees are possessed by “the demon.” He also asks King not to make any more references to players with telekinetic powers.

The ad, created by Derek Barnes and John Parker of the Wieden-Kennedy Agency in New York (ironically), is the latest in a campaign that began in 1994.

“The campaign is one of those people identify with ESPN more generally. It started out as a SportsCenter campaign, but now it’s more an ESPN brand thing,” said Green. “It’s taken on a lot of that office-centric and self-deprecating humor, and it’s really caught on.”

Indeed, where once athletes had to be cajoled or prodded to appear in the spots, now they’re the ones prodding ESPN personnel for a chance to appear in one.

“We don’t pay them anything to do it. Some of the bigger athletes have already said, ‘You know you’ve made it when you’re in a SportsCenter commercial,’ so that doesn’t hurt,” Green explained. “Now we have agents calling us trying to find a spot for their clients.”

Once a few scheduling conflicts were addressed over a nine-month period, the King spot took all of half a day to tape.

“There weren’t many revisions necessary. There’s always a little bit, but it all came off pretty well,” Green said.

A Boston native and longtime Sox fan, Green enjoys the spot but considers the one with Boston Celtics Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to be his favorite.

“They were willing to come over shortly after they all signed and that was especially a thrill for me, being from Boston,” Green said. “Plus they were great in the spot.”

The rest of the people who created the King spot are art director Stuart Jennings, copywriter Brant Mau and broadcast producer Alison Hill.

WABI kicks off three more years

Bangor television station WABI has won the rights to broadcast all three Maine high school football state championship games through 2010.

The three-year contract extension was finalized this week and involves a non-disclosed amount of cash plus on-air promotional ads for the Maine Principals’ Association.

“They put it out for bid and we were notified that we won,” said WABI program director Steve Hiltz. “We’re excited about it because this cements our standing as the local sports leader.”

WABI began airing all three games in 2005.

“It’s an expansive effort, but we’ve not had any major operational problems,” Hiltz added. “We’ve had some minor technical problems, but nothing major.

“I think the big thing about this is they are part of the community and that people recognize we do make the effort to step out and do something to bring more games to people who can’t go.”

aneff@bangordailynews.net

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