How the Manning brothers prodded DirecTV to go off the hook with the “NFL Sunday Ticket” serenade

Peyton and Eli Manning didn’t phone in their latest acting gig to help promote DirecTV’s “NFL Sunday Ticket.” They went long distance, in a hip-hop hurry.

In the spoofing spirit of a Justin Timberlake-Andy Samberg ’90s R&B “Saturday Night Live” skit, the Manning brothers’ performance of “Football On Your Phone” has become a viral victory since its launch early Tuesday.

More than 3.2 million views were recorded on the YouTube clip by early this evening.
(Update: As of Thursday afternoon, it was up to 4.8 million views).

Sparked at first by tweets from USA Today, by noon Tuesday, #FootballOnYourPhone was trending on Twitter, both in the U.S. and worldwide. By 4 p.m. Tuesday, Mashable, one of the most influential social media site on the net, posted the video and quickly drew 3,000 shares on Facebook and 1,000 shares on Twitter.

By then, national outlets such as ESPN, SI.com, the NFL Network, CNN, Yahoo! Sports and CBS Sports were already touting it.

Alex Kaplan, DirecTV’s vice president of marketing, says the idea came as a collaborative effort by the satellite dish company’s marketing and advertising divisions, along with its partner, Grey Advertising in New York.

“It was kind of a leap of faith in that we hoped it was as funny as it looked on paper,” Kaplan said this afternoon. “I think we pulled it off.”

Peyton Manning has been involved in DirecTV “NFL Sunday Ticket” marketing campaigns since he joined the NFL, and his family have been willing accomplices as well.

One of the more memorable promos in the past were the Manning brothers returning to their home of their parents, Archie and Olivia, and discovering that Matt Leinart had been trying to worm his way into the family as a left-hander.

Payton and Eli filmed the spot in New Orleans in mid July, as one can see from the French Quarter background, Kaplan said.

“What’s so cool is they’ve been great spokesmen for Sunday Ticket, and they’ve wanted to do another one of these for us, ever since they did the ‘Football Cops’ video a couple of years ago,” said Kaplan. “They’ve been bugging me to do something outside the box. We’ve been waiting for the right idea and this one popped up.”

Kaplan said that when the writer for the ad agency pitched the spot, he didn’t read the script, but sang it for the DirecTV people.

“I wasn’t at the meeting, so I just read the script for the first time, and I didn’t really get it,” said Kaplan. “When we presented it to the guys, we couldn’t just read it to them, we sang it for them.”

On today’s edition of the “Tim Brando Show” for CBS Radio, Archie Manning said that he’s been doing DirecTV spots for 16 years, but the role he had in this one caught him a little off guard.

“I just had some back surgery and I couldn’t really do much,” Archie Manning said. “When I got there, they had the French Quarter turned upside down, there were so many people. Oh, my gosh. It was fun for me. I’ve sure got a lot of texts and emails since.

“They told me I was supposed to be Neil Diamond. I can’t believe that wig I had to wear. It reminded me of the one my grandmother once wore.”

The Sports Business Daily on Wednesday ran some of the media reaction to the video.

SI.com’s Chris Burke wrote this spot “raised the bar … putting “Football on Your Phone” immediately into the pantheon of greatest commercials featuring athletes.”

The NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus: “Say this for Peyton and Eli Manning: They aren’t afraid to be ridiculous for the sake of entertainment. … This is a tour de force all around.”

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio was impressed that “for a change, Eli is actually funnier in this one than Peyton.”

Kaplan calls the reaction to the video “unbelievable … it’s exceeded everyone’s expectations already. This could be one of the all-time great viral marketing campaigns. Everyone thinks it’s either very funny, or its so painful that you can’t keep your eyes off it, which then makes it funny.

“We’re always trying to create new interest over a long period. You just can’t get complacent.”

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