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The brief was centered around the fact that tennis was a subdued, quiet sport where the tennis fans are asked to hush before every serve. At that time, you had one of the most dynamic, high energy rivalries on the courts with Sampras and Agassi. Nike wanted show how that energy and excitement was disrupting the tennis world.

My partner Derek Barnes and I had a number of ideas, but Guerrilla Tennis stood out as the biggest opportunity to disrupt the tennis world.

This was the first time the agency worked with Spike. He had just put out the Beastie Boys Sabotage music video. The video featured high energy, gritty, hand-held footage of the Beastie Boys running through street and alleys. 

Nike – Guerilla Tennis

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Spike’s sensibility felt like a great fit for our spot. I believe Guerilla Tennis was his first national commercial.

After the spot was out, most people just assumed it was filmed in New York.

Sampras and Agassi were both on board from the beginning of the project. They both had extremely busy schedules, but our talented producers at Wieden always find a way to make the impossible happen.

Spike’s location team looked at New York, but it proved too costly and complicated to be closing down multiple city blocks in downtown NYC considering the high volume of traffic and people. San Francisco allowed us to close four downtown city blocks for the day. After the spot was out, most people just assumed it was filmed in New York.

ABOVE: Eric King


It was filmed as a real, live event with a large number of cameras all shooting simultaneously. After Spike filmed Sampras and Agassi exiting the taxi, the entire shoot kept building and building from there. With so many cameras filming in multiple directions, all agency and clients watched from a nearby rooftop so none of us ended up in the background!

The spot was a way of showing how they disrupted the sport, far beyond the lines of the court itself.

There was a script and a story arch, but once the filming began, there were so many spontaneous things that happened throughout the day of shooting.

The most challenging part of the shoot was the ending, with the city bus crashing through the net. This was shot at the end of the day. At that point, we had a large number of people watching in the intersection. So there needed to be a lot of planning to get the shot and have nobody injured in the process!

I don’t think any of us knew how it would do at Cannes [the spot won a Sliver]. We were all really pleased with the result.

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ABOVE: Shots from the rematch


I was not involved in the rematch in New York, but I was inspired by the fact that it was recreated 20 years later. How often does that happen in someone’s career?

I think the spot has had enduring appeal because we all have a memory of the Sampras vs. Agassi rivalry. At the time, they went head to head in final after final. Championship match after championship match. Their styles were different. Their personalities were different. But they both played and battled every point with all they had. The spot was a way of showing how they disrupted the sport, far beyond the lines of the court itself.

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