Jersey featured in new Chevy truck ad
Only a handful of people across the country knew Michigan State’s hockey program would make an appearance in Chevrolet’s latest TV commercial featuring its Silverado line of pickup trucks.
Scot Schlesinger was one of the chosen few. And the only one in his office at Michigan State.
The minute-long ad, which began airing Sunday during NFL conference championship games, features the return of Walter, a cat who acts like a dog. A scene takes place on a pond of ice, where Walter and his owner are playing hockey. When the camera cuts to a close-up of the owner, he is sporting a Michigan State hockey jersey.
The look came together, Schlesinger said, because of his long history of working with General Motors on behalf of the state of Michigan.
“A couple of my contacts at GM reached out to me and said they were shooting a winter-themed commercial and they were going to make it a pond hockey game,” Schlesinger said, assistant manager of athletics sales and marketing. “They asked me if we would be willing to join them. We appreciate our partnership with GM. They’re an amazing organization and we’re very happy to partner with them, so I immediately said, ‘Yes. , we would love to do that.’ “
Schlesinger played for the Spartans football program from 1991 to 1995 and spent nearly 20 years in the athletic department. In August 2015, he was appointed director of corporate relations for the department. Those connections paved the way for Sunday’s additional exposure at MSU.
After GM reached out, Schlesinger sent Michigan State hockey jerseys to the West Coast, where the commercial was filmed.
This isn’t the first time Michigan State athletics have been featured in an ad. Ten years ago, the football team had a small spot in a Comcast/Xfinity commercial.
Nothing compared to Sunday in terms of prestige, however.
“The ratings for NFL games are exploding,” Schlesinger said. “They are some of the most-watched programs, basically, in television history. There was a lot of exciting football.”
Michigan State hockey coach Danton Cole did not watch the AFC or NFC title games.
But he caught the publicity.
“My phone kind of blew up (Sunday) night, everyone from family and friends to alumni,” said Cole, who is in his fifth season in charge of the Spartans. “That was pretty cool.”
Although he was unaware of the behind-the-scenes work that landed his program a role in a national TV commercial, Cole said he knew it had to do with “good relationships.” that the school establishes with its commercial partners.
“(It was) a little product placement,” Cole said. “So it was really, really nice to see.”
Schlesinger had seen him long before Sunday. He had a pre-screening of the commercial in early January. After that he went to work. Because Nike and the Big Ten Conference also have their logos on Michigan State’s jersey, Schlesinger had to check with both the multinational apparel titan and the league. If either had objected to the use of their logo in the ad, changes would follow, namely trying to remove their logo from the shirt.
“But luckily we didn’t have to go that route,” Schlesinger said, “or consider those alternatives.”
Even though he had watched the ad several times before it aired on national television, Schlesinger admitted he was looking forward to it finally airing. And while he knew it would happen at some point, he said neither GM nor the TV broadcast partners showing the games told him exactly when the commercial break would mark its debut.
“I was just waiting to see it,” he said. “It was exciting when he came out.”
He was equally thrilled with the response he saw to Michigan State’s inclusion in the ad.
“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback here about it,” Schlesinger said. “It has certainly been seen by a lot of people.”
Some of those compliments have also come face-to-face, since Schlesinger was sworn to secrecy.
“No one else in the department knew this was happening. I kept it quiet,” Schlesinger said. “GM didn’t want to release exactly what (the ad) was going to be, so not many people knew it was coming. But people were pretty happy to see it and excited about it.”
Since Sunday, Schlesinger said he had already returned and watched the ad multiple times. (Chevrolet posted the ad on its official YouTube page on Sunday.) However, viewers won’t need to go online to continue watching it. Schlesinger noted that the ad will run throughout the upcoming Winter Olympics, which begin Friday. So, for the foreseeable future, the rest of the country will regularly see Michigan State’s hockey team gracing its television screens during commercial breaks. A few alumni who are now GM executives, Schlesinger said, couldn’t be happier.
Yet this would never have happened without continually cultivating partnerships.
“It’s just relationship-oriented,” Schlesinger said. “We’ve had relationships with these corporate partners for a long, long time. It just worked.”
Contact Ryan Black at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RyanABlack.