ESPN has to pay the bills. However, in doing so on Saturday, the Disney-owned broadcasting company ran a very ill-timed promotion that completely disrespected the troops.
Late in the fourth quarter of a dogfight SEC West matchup between LSU and Arkansas, ESPN came back from commercial. As it did, a tribute to those who have served in the U.S. Military carried the broadcast out of the break. It aired one day after Veteran’s Day, so it carried even greater significance than any other Saturday in the fall.
And then ESPN decided to completely undermine its honorable gesture by running a commercial. Awkward doesn’t even begin to describe how it came across as a viewer.
ESPN missed the mark with its Veteran’s Day tribute.
While service members past and present flashed on the screen, proud orchestral music played in the background. The layering of the assets was the first issue.
Images of U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Fred Clow and U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jonathan Doornick were pushed to the back behind an ESPN College Football banner and a Papa Johns logo that was featured prominently in the lefthand corner.
If that wasn’t bad enough, a booming ad read overtook the moment.
“The Shaq-a-Roni is back at Papa Johns! And it’s fit to feed a Shaq-sized family!”
After a short pause, the broadcast cut back to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and the announcer thanked all of our veterans for their courage and commitment to our country.
Neither an ad read nor a tribute are uncommon ways to lead in and/or out of a commercial break. But with that being said, ESPN’s presentation was abysmal and — at the very least — it feels like the Papa John’s plug could have come before or after the military moment, not during.
There was no reason to have a voiceover talking about pizza as servicemen and women were honored on Veteran’s Day weekend. Think it through.