TNT Puts AT&T at Center Court

Mar 13, 2006  •  Post A Comment

TNT will give the new AT&T home court advantage during its National Basketball Association games.

NBA players under contract to AT&T will be featured in “AT&T Home Turf” vignettes produced by Turner Broadcasting as part of an estimated $4 million ad buy that starts this week and runs through the end of the playoffs.

One-minute previews of the vignettes-which show the players at home, where they have AT&T products and services-will be telecast during TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” The full-length, three-minute versions of the vignettes will be available on a special ATT.com Web site called SeeHowTheyLive.com. TNT.tv will link to the site. The vignettes are hosted by former NBA player Kenny Smith, part of the “Inside the NBA” announcing crew.

Increasingly, advertisers are looking for more in their media buys than the typical 30-second spots, and broadband content is especially attractive to a company like AT&T that sells DSL.

“The NBA makes sense for us from a demographic perspective, and Turner delivers good ratings,” said Chris Allen, associate media director for AT&T’s ad agency GSD&M. “So this was a way for us to leverage media that already made sense to sort of extend our brand image further for consumers.”

Turner has been focusing on providing multiplatform packages for advertisers, said Will Funk, VP of sports sponsorships for Turner, which brought its production resources and on-screen talent to the court. “We’re proving to be leaders in this original branded content space,” he said.

Mr. Allen said the vignettes are not hard-sell and the product placement is not designed to be blatant. “The idea is to really bridge the gap [between programming and advertising] and show customers how the new AT&T delivers their world for them,” he said, adding that the cost of producing the vignettes was wrapped into the seven-figure media commitment. Some of the AT&T spots will promote the Web site-where the vignettes can be seen-and others will be normal AT&T branding commercials. Spots promoting the vignettes will also run on local media in key AT&T markets.

Jermaine O’Neal of the Indianapolis Pacers is featured in the first vignette, which is scheduled to debut Thursday on TNT. In the vignette, former NBA player Mr. Smith challenges Mr. O’Neal to several contests as they check out the grown-up toys-electronic and otherwise-in Mr. O’Neal’s house.

Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs will be featured in the second vignette, due to run March 30. Mr. Parker’s girlfriend, “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria, will be seen only in pictures around the house, but several other current and former Spurs do make appearances. Elton Brand of the Los Angeles Clippers will appear in the third vignette. Mr. Smith’s home will also star in a vignette later in the season.

AT&T also has relationships with other athletes, including Major League Baseball players, tennis players and National Football League players. The agency is looking to make similar deals for content featuring those athletes. “We’re actually working through that now and having conversations with some of the other major sports content providers,” Mr. Allen said.

The campaign is part of a reported $1 billion effort to rebrand AT&T, the product of SBC Communications’ acquisition of AT&T Corp. The company earlier this month announced plans to acquire BellSouth for $67 billion, which would make it the dominant player in the phone market and a potent competitor to the cable operators.