Brand: Major League Baseball/Partnership for a Drug-Free America
Link: Click Here
Target: Teenage boys
A basketball, baseball, volleyball and football sit on a benchtop. A voiceover says, “Steroids can really damage your body.” The football begins to deflate and shrivels up. “They can cause tendons to tear, and bones to stop growing” the voiceover continues as the volleyball deflates. “Damage kidneys, destroy the liver – even cause heart attacks and strokes,” and the baseball shrivels. The football deflates as the voiceover concludes, “Not to mention something else they can do to a guy’s body.” The spot switches to a visual of the Drugfree.org logo and Partnership for a Drug-Free America as the voiceover says “Find out more about the dangers of using steroids – visit drugfree.org.”
This is a simple, visually powerful and well-executed spot. The deflating balls get to the heart of what might actually scare a teenage boy into avoiding steroids. Not the risk of stroke, heart attack or even torn tendons will do it. But withered testicles just might. The stark set for this spot draws attention to the message and the simple action of the balls deflating one after another.
This spot is excellent and has no major deficiencies but the campaign loses points for being too little, too late. Major League Baseball’s response to the very obvious signs of steroid use in the league has been almost as effective as an ostrich burying its head in the sand at the first hint of danger, hoping to make itself a smaller target. One look at the pre- and post- steroid Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi or Barry Bonds will tell you that the League paid attention to its short-term financial interest (all of the excitement created by the swift fall of slugging records) at the expense of its credibility and stature. Now they find themselves in a messy, awkward situation. What do they do with the records of confessed steroid abusers? An asterisk seems unfare to players like Roger Maris who did no wrong themselves but earned one. The more just response – removing the records altogether in the manner of stripping a medal from an Olympic athlete testing positive for doping – will shame the League even further. And then there is the question of what to do about Barry Bonds. Major League Baseball’s awkward, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” dance with Bonds has come to a swift end with the publication of “Game of Shadows” by Lance Williams (read an excerpt on Sports Illustrated Website here.)
Now Major League Baseball must face the reality of its own failures. By failing to create an effective, world-class testing mechanism early on (including taking and retaining blood samples for future testing), MLB created an atmosphere that ensured that the most competitive athletes would use steroids . While the athletes actions are inexcusable, the actions of MLB in this respect border on criminal.
This Public Service announcement is a tacit acknowledgement of the wider-reaching social consequences of the steroid culture that Major League Baseball allowed to flourish. The legacy of steroids in professional sports is steroids in high school and college athletics and a teenage culture of sports-related substance abuse. While MLB may be able to rid the sport of the drug habit with strict testing, the problem among teens will be much harder to eradicate. So while this is an excellent spot, it is also a sad commentary on our national pastime.
Branding Bottom Line:
Major League Baseball starts to do the right thing – and reminds us of the mess they have made.