Seoul Snafu Won’t Sideline Disney’s ‘What Next’ Spots

Disney stumbled badly at the Olympics, but it still plans to go to bat next month at the World Series with its ad campaign that features top athletes, shortly after their moment of victory, saying they’re going to Disneyland.

The first such ad, filmed in 1987, featured New York Giant quarterback Phil Simms, who was asked, “Now that you’ve won the Super Bowl, what are you going to do next?” His rehearsed response: “I’m going to Disneyland.” The setup has since been repeated by a number of athletes in more than a dozen commercials for Disneyland and Disney World.

But the Magic Kingdom’s commercial magic backfired last week at the Summer Olympics. Film crews were discovered filming an ad with Olympic swimmer Matt Biondi, moments after he won a gold medal. And that violated an International Olympic Committee rule.

“We thought we had the right permission,” explained Tom Elrod, marketing vice president for Disney World. “But with an organization as big as the Olympics, you never know for sure.”


As a result, Disney has to decided to scrap plans to run--or film--any more Olympics-related commercials, said Elrod. But the “What’s Next?” campaign, he said, “will go on for a long, long time. This is not a major setback.”

In this year’s Summer Olympics, Disney was also considering filming ads that would have featured other gold medal winners, including track stars Florence Griffith Joyner and Carl Lewis. “But no deals were struck,” said Elrod, “and we hadn’t paid any of them anything.” He declined to state how much money Disney spent planning the Seoul campaign.

So what’s next for What’s Next? Probably the World Series, said Elrod. “And if the Dodgers keep playing like they’ve been playing lately,” he said, “we may be featuring one of them.”