Riding the popularity of one of the most-successful social media campaigns in history, Ray Lewis has jumped aboard the Old Spice ship.
In the process, he also jumped aboard a giant, laser-shooting raven with rocket boosters coming out of its tail end.
That’s the premise of Lewis’ new Old Spice commercial, which airs nationally during the NFL’s 2010 kickoff game between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night.
The advertisement follows the same vein as the "Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign. In addition to the well-received commercials and print ads, Old Spice created and uploaded over 180 YouTube video responses to fan questions sent via Twitter and Facebook this summer.
In the Lewis showcase, he emerges from the shower wearing a full lather of Old Spice Swagger Body Wash suds. As he grabs a saddle for the giant Raven, he tells the audience, "I don’t play fantasy football. I play for-real football. It takes hard work. A little luck. A pinch of salt. And this – Old Spice Swagger Body Wash."
After which he mounts the back of a raven and flies into space, blowing up Saturn along the way.
As incongruous as that may seem, though, Lewis was a marked man once the trend-setting ad agency Wieden + Kennedy got involved.
"As soon as we got briefed on the assignment, we immediately wanted Ray Lewis," said Andrew Dickson, the spot’s writer. "He’s epitomized what we think a guy should be. He plays the game of football the right way. Even though he’s a veteran, he’s dedicated himself to be great forever."
Added Jimm Lasser, the project’s art director: "His intensity played a big part in it. His entrance to Ravens games almost feels like a WWE wrestler come to life. We thought that a guy needs that intensity to go forward in life. He was great for that.
"Old Spice people aren’t rookies. They’re experienced men who are still on top of their game. That fits him to a ‘T.’"
The crew filmed for two "Herculean" days – as Dickson put it – in Los Angeles, pulling Lewis in many different directions.
Rewrites, new lines, set changes, makeup, craft service tables.
Lewis happily did it all, according to those involved.
"I’m going to plant this seed – he should be an action movie star," said Lasser, who threw a nod to The Mill visual effects studio for designing Lewis’ space scene. "He has a really good presence, and he was great with the lines. We went late on the last night, but when we got done, he had a huge smile on his face and thanked us.
"Ray was a real pro, and it was an absolute pleasure."
Lewis said he enjoyed working with the creative minds of Wieden + Kennedy, along with Old Spice.
"I’ve definitely seen the commercials," Lewis said. "Those original ones were hilarious. For me, the team was really creative, and it kind of fits my personality. I just think when people see them, they’re going to laugh.
"It’s always fun to do stuff like that. The hours are tough, but you’re laughing while you’re doing it."
The campaign also includes print ads with Lewis somehow growing an extra-large hand to hold three Swagger products.
In another print ad, Lewis’ first three fingers sport hands of their own that carry body wash.
The fact that it was Lewis, an 11-time Pro Bowler and one of the most-feared men in football only made it funnier.
"It was a ridiculous scene to see a future Hall-of-Famer in a suds suit being hoisted up on a mechanical raven, but he was so cool about it," Dickson said with a laugh. "He took it pretty seriously, which was awesome.
"He said, ‘I’ve seen the Old Spice stuff. I know what you guys are up to.’"
Note: Facebook fans of Old Spice can also watch the commercial before its Thursday-night debut. In addition, ESPN.com will run a banner ad featuring a special Old Spice giveaway featuring Lewis.