Thanksgiving’s Best in Sports Advertising

This Week's Best in Sports Ads: Snickers' Thanksgiving Tackles Leon Lett

In keeping true to the holiday spirit, this week we’re celebrating some of the best Thanksgiving spots in sports advertising from the past decade.

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1. Snickers — The Man Who Literally Played Hungry (2011)

Agency: BBDO New York

Athlete / Influencer: Leon Lett

On Thanksgiving Day in 1993, Dallas Cowboys’ defensive lineman Leon Lett attempted to scoop up the football after his team blocked a potentially game-winning field goal, but he botched the fumble recovery and gave the Dolphins another (successful) shot at winning. Almost a decade later, Snickers teamed up with NFL Films on a mini-doc chronicling the root cause of his infamous mistake: hunger. The intentionally over-the-top Snickers Thanksgiving spot, created by BBDO New York, had all of the feels of an NFL Films documentary (including your favorite voiceover) and creatively engaged fans by encouraging them to visit a microsite to “forgive Leon” and send him to the Cowboys-Dolphins rematch in 2011.

2. Nike — Thanksgiving (2013)

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy

Athlete / Influencer: Calvin Johnson and Diddy

What are we thankful for every single year? Ads that come out of Nike’s relationship with Wieden + Kennedy. This throwback spot was part of the brand’s “Calvin & Johnson” campaign which leaned on the former Detroit Lions star receiver and music mogul Diddy. In this spot, Diddy plays the role of “Johnson,” the football star’s alter-ego who’s shouldering the proverbial load of their family at the dinner table on Thanksgiving so “Calvin” can stay focused on the field. Must have worked… Megatron and his Detroit Lions schooled the Packers 40-10 for their first win on Turkey Day in a decade.

3. Nationwide — Thanksgiving Seconds (2015)

Agency: McKinney

Athlete / Influencer: Peyton Manning

Back before his farewell tour, everyone’s favorite Nationwide frontman, Peyton Manning, gave the company’s famous jingle a Thanksgiving spin for a rendition that feels all too familiar. Remember his ode to chicken parm? In the spot created by McKinney, “Nationwide is on your side” turns into “Turkey leg you taste so good” as Manning celebrates his holiday just like the rest of us: watching football and indulging in a regrettable second helping of food.

4. Red Bull — The Story of Thanksgiving (2013)

Agency: Kastner & Partners

When will animated ads become as much of a staple on linear as they are on digital? Possibly when pigs fly—which happens (literally) in this spot from Red Bull. In the creative commercial, the brand sets out to discover how the turkey became a Thanksgiving Day staple, offering up their version of the story, in the form of an animated story developed by Kastner & Partners. Everyone knows that Red Bull gives you wings, but unfortunately there was only enough of the energy drink for the other animals in the farm. The turkey got left behind and the rest is history.

5. NHL — Rangers vs Bruins Thanksgiving Showdown (2013)

Agency: In-House

Athlete / Influencer: Mike Richter and Cam Neely

Football isn’t the only sport that throws a big bash on Turkey Day. The NHL’s revamped Thanksgiving Showdown between the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins in 2013 (which was halted the previous year because of the lockout) was fueled by this lighthearted spot that gives an inside look at the rivalry from the perspective of a passionate family of hockey fans. The spot was directed by Bobby Farrelly who co-directed the iconic comedy films “There’s Something About Mary” and “Dumb and Dumber” and also features former Bruins star Cam Neely and former Rangers goalie Mike Richter.

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