In the promo buildup for this summer’s World Cup, ESPN’s attempted to fashion a personality cult of sorts around soccer commentator Ian Darke. Not wishing to stand pat after Darke’s acclaimed work in South Africa 4 years ago, ESPN marketing manager Brandon Gillen commissioned a series of straight-t0-You Tube clips of Darke providing play-by-play in a series of non-soccer scenarios. Gillen, who tells the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir he’s not familiar with Woody Allen’s 1971 comedy, “Bananas”, penned a spot in which Darke presides over a blind date at a Brooklyn eatery.
Mr. Darke starts his commentary while sitting on a bar stool, then rises to stand beside the actors playing “Jim” and “Stacey” before he sits between them at their table. He describes the action in the parlance of a soccer match, his voice rising and falling with the encounter’s ebbs and flows.
When Jim spills wine on Stacey, Mr. Darke says, “Desperation time now. It might take a miracle.”
But when prospects perk up for the couple, he says, “Go, go, Jim! Call him the comeback king! Oh, it’s incredible. Who is writing this stuff?”
“We hoped it would be viral,” Mr. Gillen said. “It’s the kind of digital content that people pass around.”