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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Fort Worth gets a shout-out in COVID PSA with Willie Nelson

What can’t Willie Nelson do? Not much, and his latest venture, a COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative from the Ad Council, even includes a little shout-out to Fort Worth.

As an extension of their COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative, “It’s Up To You,” the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative on March 23 announced the launch of a new campaign in partnership with 13 leading sports leagues and organizations: American Horse Council, Athletes Unlimited, Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS), National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), PGA TOUR, US Open Tennis Championships, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and WWE.

Highlighting iconic moments in sport and a brand-new recording of I’ll Be Seeing You performed by Grammy Award-winning musician Willie Nelson, the videos encourage fans to visit GetVaccineAnswers.org for the latest information about the COVID-19 vaccines.

“In the song, I sing ‘I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places,’ and that’s exactly what I hope these PSAs will help do: help get Americans informed about the vaccines and one step closer to the people and moments we miss,” said Nelson in an Ad Council news release. “I’m happy to be part of this new campaign with the Ad Council, COVID Collaborative and these sports organizations to empower millions more to get the answers they need and feel confident in getting vaccinated, like I did.”

Nelson, who received his COVID-19 vaccination earlier this year, recorded his rendition of I’ll Be Seeing You pro bono specifically to be featured in the new PSAs. Developed pro bono by creative agency Pereira O’Dell in collaboration with the 13 leagues and organizations, the spots remind fans about the joy and exhilaration of experiencing sporting events together, in person, and end with the hopeful message that because of the vaccines we may soon get back to those moments we love.

Willie has recorded the song before, for his Healing Hands of Time album. This version has a leaner arrangement and I’ve got to say that Willie, who is now 87 years young, sounds pretty good here.

If the song sounds familiar, it’s been around since 1938, written by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal. The song was included in the Broadway musical Right This Way, which closed after 15 performances. But the song lived on, particularly during World War II. The song had its first encounter with a Texan when it was included in the 1944 musical I’ll Be Seeing You, where it was sung by Bing Crosby. The movie also starred Ginger Rogers, who grew up in Fort Worth. That was the same year Billie Holiday recorded a very influential version of the song.

Another Texan, Norah Jones, recorded the song last year in support of the New York Restoration Project.

Check out the video here: https://youtu.be/tUZziJSaKhQ

The video features scenes from various sporting events and if you pause the video at about 0.38 seconds, you’ll see a bit of a rodeo at the Fort Worth Stockyards, which is more than fitting with the Red-Headed Stranger’s involvement in the project.

Within the spots are some of the most iconic moments in recent sports history, including Jordan Spieth’s celebration after winning the 2017 Travelers Championship, Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff’s emotional hug after a US Open tennis match, Pete Alonso hitting a home run, and the WWE crowd chanting for Finn Balor. The video also features some intimate moments of fan and player interaction, and concludes by referring viewers who have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines to GetVaccineAnswers.org.

“Sports and sports moments hold a special place in the hearts of millions of people across our country and, regardless of who you’re rooting for, we’re all looking forward to getting back to the arenas, stadiums and moments we miss,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “We’re grateful for the extraordinary collaboration and commitment from all of our partner leagues and organizations and Willie Nelson for lending his voice to these powerful PSAs. We know this work will inspire Americans and encourage them to get the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccines.”

“This is the same song we used on our previous spot, but done with a completely different vibe, just for this story we are telling,” said PJ Pereira’s Creative Chairman, Pereira O’Dell. “That allows the leagues and organizations to have their own voice in this battle against the pandemic at the same time they are part of a larger movement. The goal is to have other partners take this song and this idea and make it theirs too.”

According to Ad Council research fielded by Ipsos in February, approximately 40% of the American public remain undecided about getting a COVID-19 vaccination. Of that undecided population, only 56% say they feel confident they have enough information to guide their decision about getting a COVID-19 vaccination, compared to 96% of those already committed. A majority (over 80%) are eager to get back to the moments and people they miss, including sporting events. And new data from Bully Pulpit Interactive shows that 28% of hesitant Americans say they are inspired and more likely to get vaccinated when prompted to get back to sporting events. These insights underline the urgency for continued mass communication efforts that provide audiences with answers to the top questions people have about the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Sports bring us together as a people. Having this extraordinary collection of sports leagues and organizations, together with the voice of Willie Nelson, on our team will help us educate more Americans about the COVID-19 vaccines, get the information they desperately need to make their choice to get a vaccine, and move us closer to enjoying our favorite sporting events in person,” said John Bridgeland, Co-Founder & CEO of the COVID Collaborative.

Per the Ad Council model, the PSAs will run in time and space donated by the media across TV and digital media platforms beginning this week. Partners supporting the PSAs include Bank of America, which is donating over $1.7 million in ad inventory to help the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative reach sports fans with the “It’s Up To You” PSAs. Additional major media partners, including Facebook and NBCUniversal, among others, have committed to providing significant donated media space to run and amplify the PSA assets.

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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