Charles Barkley, Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee are eating steaks on a plane—and Barkley goes to some lengths to get Jackson to say it out loud, much to Lee’s glee—in Capital One’s latest March Madness campaign from DDB Chicago.
A cheeky reference to Jackson’s infamously on-the-nose 2006 film Snakes on a Plane, the scene captures the kind of antics the trio perform in six new ads, which launched Sunday and follow the baller, the actor and the director as they try to enjoy college basketball, and mock each other relentlessly.
In one, Barkley wears a sweatshirt backwards, so he can eat potato chips out of the hood by simply dipping his chin, instead of using his hands. In another, Jackson’s enthusiastic applause during a game triggers Barkley’s clap-activated on-off switch—killing the TV and the lights at a crucial moment.
Sportscaster Jim Nantz gets cut off in that voice-only cameo, but the man himself appears in a different spot, outshining Barkley’s celebrity in Phoenix.
Overall, the spots—directed by Lee—make for a solid addition to the bank’s “Road Trip” campaign, which for the past couple of years relied on pun humor and bad but heartfelt sing-a-longs from the three celebrities to mark its sponsorship of the tournament.
At moments, the new spots feel a bit contrived, and almost patronizing to audiences—like overplayed caricatures of household names trying to goof around like normal people—but even then they’re entertaining, and convincing, enough.
Plus, as oddball surprises go, Barkley’s many outfits aren’t a bad twist, mostly because being completely ridiculous is usually a sound option.