Dec 2, 2009, 1:15 PM EDT
Today’s musical question: Why would the badass Oregon Duck, a costumed malcontent who was once suspended for beating up another college mascot, let ESPN and the Walt Disney Corporation walk all over him? That seems to be what’s happening with this new ESPN commercial.
You know the one I mean: With the Duck in an office at a computer. He looks out the window at a pond full of real ducks, and sighs; then goes back to the keyboard. That’s some image to project on the eve of the Civil War battle with Oregon State: Your once-proud mascot, completely domesticated and working in an office cubicle in Bristol, CT. But that seems to be the hold that ESPN has over the Duck. No matter how often the Worldwide Leader craps on him, the mascot just turns the other feather.
Let’s look at their history:
Earlier this month the university pulled a popular, student-produced YouTube rap video, entitled “I Smell Roses,” because the Duck appeared in it. Officials cited copyright issues in the decision: The Duck mascot is modeled after Donald Duck, and Disney allows Oregon to use the image in a special licensing agreement. And you do not anger the Disney juggernaut. Disney, of course, is the corporate parent of ESPN.
This is a huge issue on the Oregon campus, where the majority of students are still mad that their pet video was taken off the Internet. A T-shirt modeled on the video went on sale at the university’s bookstore recently, and all 6,000 shirts were sold within three hours. Here’s a non-YouTube version of the video:
Now we take you to the fall of 2008, when the university was informed that its 30-second commercial spot, Save Oregon Wrestling, would not be aired by ESPN, even though the network had agreed to do so. ESPN told Oregon of its decision two days before the slate of 11 commercials on ESPN and ESPNU were scheduled to run.
Below is the banned ad:
In explaining ESPN’s decision, spokesman Jim Thurston said:
“ESPN does not accept advertising that consists of, in whole or in part, political advocacy or issue-oriented advertising.”
Prompting this reply from SOW Creative Director Hank Hosfield:
“What did ESPN think Save Oregon Wrestling is? It said right on our contract, non-profit organization. It’s hard to believe they didn’t know what we were about when they approved the initial contract. Now, out of the blue, one day before we go nationwide with our campaign and they yank us. All of the blame for this is on ESPN, but the damage is all to us, the people working to save wrestling.”
Those wounds seem to have healed, or else the Oregon Duck just isn’t a wrestling fan. The Duck Rap video ban, though, is still causing waves. Disney, and by proxy ESPN, gained no fans in Oregon with this debacle.
“It’s kind of shady in a way, the timing of this (ESPN Duck commercial).” Ben Schorzman, sports editor of the campus newspaper, the Daily Emerald, told Out of Bounds. “It appears right at the time the video is pulled down, almost like they’re using the publicity from that.”
The Duck seems to be cut from the same mold as all Disney characters: A shameless publicity hound. Beat him up all you want; he’ll appear in their commercials anyway. Hope the university got a hefty fee for that. Has the Duck no self respect?
ESPN bans Save Oregon Wrestling commercial [DuckSportsNews.com]
I Love My Ducks tee [UODucksstore]
Supwitchugirl sparks controversy [Daily Emerald]
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