Missing the Game? Revisit Our Favorite Indiana Sports Ads

3 min read

In Indy, we pride ourselves on our city’s reputation as a world-class sports town. Since Mayor Bill Hudnut and local business leaders came together to found Indiana Sports Corp in 1979, the city’s commitment to athletics has helped revitalize downtown and consistently raised its profile on the national stage. In the decades since, Indy has become the home to the Indianapolis Colts, the NCAA headquarters, and NFL Combine. We have hosted multiple Final Fours, United States Athletics championships, and the 2012 Super Bowl.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every sector of the economy, and sports are no exception. According to the World Economic Forum, the global value of the sports industry was estimated at $471 billion in 2018. The industry’s financial potential appeared boundless just a few short months ago. According to the New York Times, the sports economy has ballooned to more than $71 billion annually, and employs tens of thousands of people from athletes to hot dog vendors.

As the pandemic began to spread and social distancing became the new normal, professional leagues were forced to take a hard look at an uncertain future. With seasons suspended, tournaments cancelled, and as of this writing, still no MLB Opening Day in sight, leagues and broadcasters have had to get creative in serving fans content.

Filling the Content Void

Fans stuck at home are hungry for content. ESPN moved up the launch of its 10-part docuseries “The Last Dance” on Michael Jordan and the 1990s-era Chicago Bulls from June to April. The premiere brought in 6.1 million viewers, making it the most-watched ESPN documentary in history. A couple weeks ago, coverage of the first round of the first Virtual NFL Draft drew in more than 15.6 million viewers across multiple networks, another all-time record.

To fill the content void, sports networks are getting creative in airing classic content as well–1992 Olympic basketball featuring the Dream Team, the Colts vs. Bears in Super Bowl XLI, and the 2014 NLCS Game 5 between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants have been just a few of the highlights.

Since we’re all watching re-runs, we figured we would share a few of our favorite commercials featuring Indiana athletes:

Bird vs. Jordan

Routinely on everyone’s short list for one the greatest sports commercials of all time, this ad features Michael Jordan and Larry Bird squaring off in the most outrageous game of HORSE ever played. The prize? A Big Mac and fries. Nicely played, McDonald’s.


Reggie Miller “Reading is Fundamental”

If, like me, you grew up in Indianapolis during the 1990s, Uncle Reg was everything. Regular Well Done blog visitors know that we’re big readers around here. What’s not to love about Reggie Miller and the NBA promoting literacy?


Peyton Manning Mastercard

There has never been a bigger pitch man in the Indy sports market than Peyton Manning. The best part about Peyton’s ad game, is he was always willing to make himself the butt of the joke. There are plenty of great ads to choose from, but this Mastercard spot is one of the best.


100th Running of the Indy 500

While Indy deserves credit for its many sports accomplishments, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing is, and will always be, the elephant in the room. It’s still the sporting event we’re known for across the globe. This ad for the 100th running is a particular favorite. It also earns a place on my all-time list for its inclusion of the song “Savages” from the now-defunct Indianapolis band Bonesetters.


Indiana Legend–Oscar Robertson

Speaking of 100th anniversaries, the Indiana High School Athletic Association celebrated 100 years of Hoosier Hysteria with a series of ads spotlighting Indiana basketball legends back in 2010. This heart-warming spot features a fictional Oscar Robertson receiving his first basketball.