Finally: absurdism in Dutch football



Dutch football league stars Memphis Depay (PSV), Lasse Schöne (Ajax) and Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord) give a stellar acting performance, adding absurdism to real match highlights. The result? Three very entertaining promo’s, broadcasted this week by Fox Sports Netherlands. Mark Harris (Creative Director FOX Sports) and Leonardo Horst (Creative Producer FOX Sports) give an exclusive insight in their latest work which kicks of the second half of the Dutch football season. In American fashion. “Yes, I guess we took an element of that knowing US style humor.” And don’t forget: also check out the blooper reel!

Translation: in his last quote, Lasse Schöne predicts he will shoot the ball in the left top corner. 

Can you explain to me the idea you came up with? How did you come up with this idea?

“The creative brief was basically the catalyst to the creative idea. ‘How do we demonstrate that our live offering is superior to highlights and the way we cover the game makes fans feel like they step inside the game?’ Instantly we knew whatever we did we had to reflect a real match scenario in some way, we had to show the importance of live. We presented a host of ideas, but without a doubt we knew we’d nailed the brief when we landed on the concept of using real match footage and getting the players to tell our story.”

Translation: in his last quote, Memphis Depay says he so now and then also misses a shot on goal, but if you watch Fox Sports, Depay says, you don’t have to miss a moment of De Eredivisie, which is the name of the Dutch football league.

Did you have examples of promo’s, which maybe inspired you?

“We’re always absorbing commercials and/or promo’s all the time, so normally its hard to say their was just one, but it’s fair to say the tone of the great ESPN ad’s and Fox Sports ‘Beware of things made in October’ played a part in the writing and creative process.”

Did everybody, at your station, instantly like your idea?

“We knew we were onto a good thing when everyone judged every subsequent idea by this one. It set the bar pretty high, which none of the other quite got close to.”

How did the execution go?

“There was a lot of preparation in the idea. After we’d presented the concept we then needed to find the match moments for each player to actually see if it was possible the idea could work. After we had the right pieces of action we built a rough edit of the sequence, so before we even went into pre-production we had a good idea of timings, angles etc. We worked with a director Mattijs Mollee and his producer Marc Bodeman, who brought a great energy to the project and without a doubt delivered the concept in the best way possible.”

Did the players involved like the idea?

“It’s fair to say it didn’t take too much convincing. It’s a pretty straightforward idea to get your head around and the guys jumped at the chance when they saw the rough edits and scripts.”

Especially Memphis and Schöne are doing a fairly good job in acting….. how did that go?

“Part of our preparation was choosing the players we felt would be good on camera. You have to remember: these guys are not actors, they are football players, so what they did was amazing. Mattijs (director) was great at managing them on the day, he definitely got the best out of them. Schöne was great fun from a moment he walked on set he put a smile on everyone’s face, he’s a very funny guy.  We felt most sorry for Clasie, he had to do all his dialogue in one take and on his shoot day it was easily -4 degrees Celsius, raining and dark and we were trying to make it cut with footage from a bright sunny day from September. Not easy, but he did an amazing job.”

We like the little skip Memphis makes, during his lines… great acting coaching! 

“On the day we shot Memphis it was cold and we were under a warm tent while he was out in the middle of the field. I think the dance was more a way to keep himself warm than any specific Oscar moment.”

The Memphis and Schöne promo’s are quite funny too…. the Clasie one is less funny. How come?

“It was important the script, the player and the scene all work together. Schöne is talking about being cheeky and watching live football while you’re at your in-laws. His personality and cheeky comment ‘think I’ll put this top left’ were perfect for him. Similarly Depay is laughing at his own miss, so his natural playful character comes out in this. While Clasie is talking about being there for the matches that matter, the big games at De Kuip when the atmosphere is electric and dramatic, so his performance and script needed to reflect that mood and be more serious in tone. It’s incredible when you think of it that the guys managed to pull it off so convincingly.”

For us, the mix of realism and fiction works out great. It gives a hint of absurdism, which we recognize from ESPN This is Sports Centre. In other words: these promo’s feel a bit American. Which we like. Do you agree?

“As we already said ESPN Sports Centre ad’s were great and actually something we referenced during the creative process. I guess we took an element of that knowing US style humor, sophisticated, knowledgable about the sport, but totally accessible for everyone. Its definitely something we’d going to explore further over the next year, watch this space.”

Did you use a lot of post-edit?

“Actually very little, in order to make these feel as “real” as possible we needed to shoot as much as we could in camera. We shot each ad at the relevant stadiums, put the cameras in the exact locations broadcast cameras would be and the players in the same spot on the field. The only post we did was on small elements of branding etc, nothing anyone would notice which is when post-production is at its best, when it seamlessly fits.”

How important are promo’s for Fox Sports The Netherlands?

“At the start of every season you lay down a key campaign calendar for the entire season to clearly define key business objectives, so, in that sense they are important in the overall plan. But also, after a winter break they are a great reminder of the importance of the end of season and why you can’t beat watching football live, anything else just isn’t football.”

Some are made by renowned directors, such as Johan Kramer. You work for Fox Sports… is it something you do more often? How does that work at Fox?

“You choose a director, on a job by job basis. Not all briefs require outside resource as we have an incredible talent pool at Fox to choose from, but when we feel someone else will bring skills beyond our own and enhance a project then we work with Directors or Production Companies like Mattijs and Marc.”

Stations abroad have a lot of budget for promo’s… how is that at Fox Sports The Netherlands?

“We have a much smaller market and market share to work with compared to say England, USA or Germany. So naturally our budgets are smaller, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be as creative. Over the years I’ve found that the greater the restrictions the more creative you need to be.”


Leonardo Horst (left), Mark Harris (right)

Mark Harris, about himself: “I’m a former storyboard artist, director, agency creative director and now creative director at FOX Sports, so over the 17 years I’ve learnt about all sides of advertising and this helps me to write scripts and campaigns with a good sense of what the end product will look like and how it will meet a brands requirements. I’m always learning and my key objective over the next year is to finally start painting again. I’ve got an idea that I just need to put down on paper. Thanks.”

Leonardo Horst, about himself: “I have worked in sports tv production for the past 10 years. Started at Eyeworks Sports, where we produced the highlights shows for Talpa and RTL. Later I moved to Endemol Sport, where I produced the promos for Eredivisie Live. Although I’ve always had a passion for sports in general, football really makes my heart beat faster. So I can honestly say that I am an echte fan (‘real fan’ in Dutch, OSA.). My goal is, and has always been to make cool stuff. FOX Sports gives me the opportunity to do that, together with Mark and our very talented creative team. Thank you.”