B/R: You were fortunate enough to work with Derrick at some emotional points in his career. You were also fortunate enough to have that same privilege with LeBron James with the “Rise” ad, talking about “What should I do?” How did those two situations compare in your mind, considering how sensitive those moments were in the careers of those respective athletes?
SW: They were similar in that respect, and I certainly wanted to do right by both of those guys. That was one of my biggest concerns. It was a high-wire act, sort of, with both of them in different ways. So many of these commercials can provoke an eye roll or like a “C’mon, why are you saying that?”
And that’s always going to happen, among fans and social media and whatnot. You’re going to have your critics, too, and that’s fine. I always believe that great commercials are either loved or they’re hated. To be in the middle is almost a purgatory.
I think with both of them, I just wanted them to go over well. I wanted them to be perceived in the right way.
I knew with LeBron’s “Rise” spot, boy, he was really taking a lot of heat, and the media people had their views on his decision. And to sit with him and recreate that moment, it was a moment that even he would say is probably not a great idea. He wanted to raise some money for Boys & Girls Clubs and...that was just completely misinterpreted. It was a miscalculation.
So to ask him to sit in the exact same seat, that we would go behind him so we could see the glare of the spotlight and sort of imagine for ourselves what that must’ve been like, and then start that dialogue of “What should I do?” Try to run the emotional gamut, from the kind of comic take on that to the serious take on that because what I liked about both of these commercials is that they acknowledge that the life of an NBA superstar is a nuanced, complicated thing that’s not something that you can just throw away the stereotype.
These guys are intelligent, multi-faceted guys. Just like anybody, they can be punchy and laughing one moment, and they can be hardcore and serious when they have to do what they have to do on the court. They’re also dealing with business dealings. They’re also dealing with media obligations, marketing obligations, all these things.
So, those are two commercials that sort of allowed us to address that issue in a more modern way than, say, back in the day, when it was just about sort of sports cliche or looking at the life of an athlete as simply, “Oh, that must be a really privileged life.”
When you see the pressure they’re under off the court and on the court and imagine navigating that at the age that these guys are, it’s a pretty remarkable thing. In both of those commercials, I was able to sort of deal with those subject matters and create a commercial that’s sort of aspiring to be a little bit more nuanced and complicated than the average spot, so they’re very similar in that way.