The answer to your first question is this: Yes, Eli Manning really was standing under Odell Beckham Jr., holding him up, in the grand finale of the memorable ad that ran after the third quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl.
But the Giants quarterback was not necessarily holding up all 200 pounds of his favorite receiver.
“He’s holding him in every take,” said Cam Miller, creative director for Grey, the advertising agency the NFL hired for the spot. “There was some help to take a little bit of the weight off. But it’s still work for him.”
Miller described it as “a little production magic,” presumably in the form of a harness that helped support Beckham’s weight. But Miller and fellow creative director Mike Cicale did not get into too many details in a morning-after interview from Minneapolis on Monday.
“We kept it as minimal as we possibly could,” Miller said. “We all definitely think they could do that without any help, but I think asking them to do it take after take would be a bit much.”
Said Cicale: “We want to make these guys’ lives a little easier. We also don’t want to injure any players. Let’s just say it was a little movie magic. They do the job and we take extra caution to make sure that they are safe and that it’s not stressful on their bodies.”
The ad, which was shot two weeks ago, had fun with the creative touchdown celebrations that marked the 2017 season, and it looked ahead to celebrations to come for the 30 teams that did not reach the Super Bowl.
It all was done as an elaborate spoof of the 1987 film, “Dirty Dancing,” directed by Aaron Stoller and choreographed by Stephanie Klemons, whose credits include the Broadway megahit “Hamilton.”
The commercial begins with Manning asking Beckham if they’re “going to work on that thing.”
“Yeah, let’s get it,” Beckham says.
Manning throws a touchdown pass to Beckham, and a recreation ensues of Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey’s famous dance in “Dirty Dancing” — complete with Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” in the background.
Landon Collins, watching on the sidelines, tells an assistant coach to “just let them dance” as Giants offensive linemen — Brett Jones, John Greco, Chad Wheeler, D.J. Fluker and John Jerry — join in behind Manning.
Manning then turns and motions to Beckham to rejoin the dance, and Beckham runs and leaps into his arms as the quarterback lifts him, a callback to one of the movie’s iconic moments.
“To all the touchdowns to come” appears next to the NFL shield at the end.
Shortly after the spot aired, “Eli Manning” began trending nationally on Twitter.
The ad finished a close second to “Alexa Loses Her Voice” in USA Today’s post-Super Bowl Ad Meter rankings.
The production came together unusually quickly, thanks not only to the help of the NFL but of Manning himself.
“He was super-excited about it, and he made some calls to get his [linemen] in there, which was great.” Cicale said.
“What you saw on set with Eli was sort of what a starting quarterback in the NFL is supposed to do. He was there the day before for three hours rehearsing. He was there all day long on the shooting day. He was super-dedicated. That’s why he is who he is.”
But could they be sure he would be funny, and that he would be able to keep up with Beckham’s dance moves?
“We’ve seen him, obviously, on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and other commercials, and he commits to it,” Miller said. “I think that was the key thing. And these guys are professional athletes. We know that they’re going to be able to pick up stuff quicker than Mike and I would.
“So we were pretty confident, particularly with Eli. We’ve just seen that comedic timing from him before.”
Miller said of Manning and Beckham, “I can’t say enough for the extra work they put in to get those moves down. Once they figured out what we wanted, they wanted to nail it. You can kind of see a little of that competitive spirit come through.”
Cicale said that after watching athletically gifted stand-ins need 10 or 12 takes to get the lift right when lighting was being planned the day before, he marveled at how quickly Beckham learned his part.
“The choreographer sat with Odell and she showed him one time and he hit it the first time,” Cicale said. “It’s crazy. You kind of take for granted the athletic ability that these guys have. When you see it in front of you, it’s great.”
What was the genesis of the ad?
“I think as we watched the season progress, the one thing that was universally just loved was these celebrations and obviously they were all really, really funny and just ridiculous and goofy and we loved them,” Miller said.
“But what made us laugh the most was thinking that at some point these guys had to sit down and plan these ridiculous celebrations. So that’s how we landed on it. That pretty directly led to what the ad became.”
Said Cicale: “We look for anything that we think is going to resonate positively for the NFL, and this is probably, unequivocally the most bright spot of the year. Everyone loves this [celebration] stuff.
“[The NFL is] in the middle of a lot of good and bad things. So for us to put a simple message out and make everybody happy, to get the reactions that we got, it honestly is probably the coolest part of my career to this point.”
The creative directors sensed they might have a hit when the ad played in the stadium in Minneapolis.
“You had 70,000 people who could be Pats or Eagles fans, neither side really looking forward to a Giants ad,” Cicale said, “And you heard the roar inside the stadium and that kind of blew my mind . . . That kind of real-life reaction is humbling.”
Said Miller: “It’s been amazing. I think it’s obviously the reaction that we wanted, and we tried to keep it really simple. The Super Bowl is not just the biggest stage in football, but really in sports, and we wanted it to be a celebration of what people love about football and the emotion, and I think people seem to be getting that.”