The commercial spot, now a year old, opens with shots of Lynchburg, Tennessee, and its Jack Daniel’s production facility, saying the town has big dreams of having its own ... dramatic pause ... “NBA team,” the narrator says, while who we presume are Jack Daniel’s employees turn a table around to show a 3D model of a basketball arena at their manufacturing plant.
The shot cuts to a surprised Bill Walton — showing the Basketball Hall of Famer standing in what I dare say is a familiar-looking, purple-seated arena — who gives a befuddled “What?!?” as he adjusts his broadcaster’s headset.
The ad describes a fictional effort, of course, but is meant to be a fun way for the town to poke fun at itself and tell people Jack Daniel’s is an “Official Partner of the NBA.”
I decided to dig into the mystery.
I emailed WSU athletics spokesman Paul Grua. Could it be The Dee?
It only took 30 minutes, probably only as long as it took him to check his email again. “Yes. That is the Dee Events Center,” he replied.
Well, that was easy.
A little more digging provided some details.
The one second of Purple Palace publicity was produced by Cosmic Pictures, which has an office in Salt Lake City, in April 2017. Linda Hart, the producer of the scene, said via email that they “needed a location that could double for an NBA venue. The (Utah) Jazz arena was under renovation and not available.”
A Jack Daniel’s ad team selected Walton for the role and called on Cosmic Pictures to do the shoot.
A contract, obtained by public records request, shows payment to Weber State of $2,000 for seven hours at the arena. It reads like basic boilerplate, including that it prohibits the production studio from having Weber State intellectual property — name, logos, marks — appear in the scene.
With Walton in the area for a speaking engagement, John Kowalewski, WSU’s director of marketing and communications, said the production team took a few hours to set up, brought Walton in, shot the scene, and that was that.
Not much of a mystery after all.