Picture this: you’re on your daily run through Delaware Park, your earbuds providing the soundtrack to a gorgeous Western New York morning. You turn a corner when a curious vision stops you in your tracks. It’s Rex Ryan and his twin brother Rob on a tandem bicycle. For those still at home fumbling with their morning coffee, it’s just another day in Buffalo, NY. But for you, it’s an unforgettable experience that they’ll never believe.
This summer, FARM had the pleasure of shooting a commercial for our client, TOPS Friendly Markets, featuring Buffalo Bills coaches Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan. Our idea was to show two fun-loving brothers enjoying a day off together with the help of new-and-improved TOPS Brand Products. What started as a goofy concept grew into a memorable shoot and a spot that created national buzz on social media—well in advance of the commercial’s airing.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at Rex and Rob’s Day Off with TOPS!
7 AM: Kick off
We started early on a picture-perfect June morning to film a number of hilarious scenes throughout the city with Rex, Rob, Buffalo Bills mascot Billy Buffalo, and Buffalo Sabres mascot Sabretooth. We also received help from some enthusiastic neighborhood kids.
7:30 AM: Sibling Tug-of-war
How can Rex enjoy a leisurely sip of TOPS Electrolyte water while his burly brother is tugging on the other end of the rope? With five strong kids on Rex’s side helping him pull, of course! One of the great things about this scene—and something you might miss the first time around—is Billy Buffalo and Sabretooth playing KanJam in the background. And if you think it’s tough enough keeping kids focused under normal circumstances, try containing their excitement while two colorful mascots are throwing Frisbees.
8:30 AM: A Walk in the Park
We knew the Ryans were “all in” for fun when they embraced their mascot buddies and strolled up and down Lincoln Parkway, recreating the Beatles’ iconic “Abbey Road” album cover. We were all a little nervous about the increased degree of difficulty involving the synchronized walk made popular by the Monkees, but the Ryans were naturals, nailing the steps on their first take. I remember thinking to myself as the Rex and his crew were smiling and having a blast, “I have the coolest job on Earth.”
10:00 AM: Tennis Machine Mayhem
Rex mans a tennis ball machine and pelts poor Rob a couple hundred times as Sabretooth and Billy Buffalo cheer in the background. A consummate professional, Rex insisted that we get several takes of the action. If you were traveling on the adjacent Scajaquada Expressway, you may have caught all the action and joined in the honking that celebrated the Ryans’ brotherly high jinks.
11:00 AM: The Famous Tandem Bike Ride
By this time, Western New Yorkers were out enjoying the day. As if the cloudless sky wasn’t perfect enough, park goers received the additional treat of Rex and Rob zooming up and down the Delaware Park bike path on their tandem bike.
Although the commercial wasn’t set to air until September 10, on the TOPS-sponsored Rex Ryan show, it took only hours for the production to create a buzz.
A local sports blogger, Jonah Bronstein, posted a picture of Rex and Rob on their tandem adventure on Twitter—and it didn’t take long to go viral.
The image was shared by thousands of Bills fans and a number of national sports media outlets, including ESPN. A t-shirt company, 26 shirts, even used a silhouette of the image on a “Bicycle Built for Two” shirt, with proceeds going to charity. We let the media outlets know that the image came from a commercial shoot for TOPS, but nothing more in order to create a sense of anticipation for the spot.
12 PM: That’s Nacho Chip!
Rob finally gets one over on his brother when he pulls a cheesy TOPS tortilla chip from their shared plate and ends up with the lion’s share of the nachos. Proof that revenge is a dish best served with tons of TOPS cheese.
A common criticism of companies that use celebrity talent is that they don’t seem like a relevant fit for the brand, that they’re only collecting a paycheck. But when you watch this commercial, you can’t help but notice how much genuine fun the Ryan brothers are having—and how close they truly are. How else could you endure being repeatedly plugged in the back by tennis balls and still come up smiling? Were we nervous asking two professional football coaches to step out of their comfort zone for all of Western New York to see? Absolutely! But not only were Rex and Rob good sports; they were good people. And that’s why they’re such a good fit for TOPS.