NBA Goes for ‘Amazing’ in Playoff Promos

Mar 15, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The National Basketball Association is getting ready for the playoffs with a promotional campaign that its TV partners, ABC, ESPN and TNT, will be using as well.
The campaign, launching this week, uses the theme “Where Will Amazing Happen This Year?” as it shows in striking black-and-white some of the best plays made by the biggest stars during the playoffs over the past five years.

The NBA is enjoying a banner season this year, with all of the league’s major TV outlets showing double-digit growth in ratings: ABC is up 21%, ESPN is up 16% and TNT is up 20%.
With the economy taking a bite out of the advertising market overall, the NBA “is performing very well relative to what is a challenging media marketplace,” said Ed Erhardt, president of customer sales and marketing for ESPN and ABC Sports, which will broadcast the NBA Finals in June.
Mr. Erhardt said all indications are that the ratings trend will continue into the playoffs.
“While the Lakers and the Celtics remain the dream match-up,” Mr. Erhardt said, “what’s really helps is you now have six or seven really good teams.”
Mr. Erhardt declined to say how much advertising time remains unsold in the playoffs or the finals—where spots sold last year for $340,000, according to TNS Media Intelligence—but he did say the network “continues to see money being written and significant interest in the NBA in April, May and June, and of course the sweet spot for the NBA is that window.”
But media buyers said selling the NBA Finals might not be so easy.
Last year, the ad market slowed down in the second quarter, making the NBA Finals a tough sell, according to Miraj Parikh, video innovation director at media agency Spark, a division of Starcom MediaVest Group. “I can only imagine what it’s going to be this year.”
Mr. Parikh agreed the NBA is having a strong regular season.
“The resurgence of Boston, Orlando and Cleveland has brought in the East Coast viewership,” he said, adding that NBA programming offers a rare opportunity to reach young male viewers.
Nevertheless, the NBA Finals is a big-ticket item at a time when marketers are looking to spend less and the rest of the primetime market is soft. “Then all of a sudden sports look real expensive,” he said.
ESPN has held onto its key advertisers in the automotive category, with General Motors sponsoring the pre-game show on ABC, Kia sponsoring pre-game on ESPN and Toyota sponsoring the half-time show.
To keep viewers tuned in, and to help them find the games they want to see, the NBA’s new campaign focuses on top players performing in high-pressure playoff situations.
“The lightning in the bottle that we have right now is our players,” said Danny Meiseles, NBA Entertainment executive producer. “People are attracted to our stars, and we’ve never had a deeper roster of stars.”
The black-and-white “Amazing” spots were shot in high definition. One of the commercials, created by ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners with NBA Entertainment, shows Cleveland star LeBron James dunking; another shows Dwayne Wade of Miami making a circus shot to win a game.
“After a great play happens, when you take your eye off of the player that’s being focused on and look behind them, you see the excitement and the pure emotion of the fans,” Mr. Meiseles said. “It shows how amazing this game is and how it keeps our fans engaged and happy and excited to be a part of it.”
The spots will air as many as 30 times between now and the end of the first round of the playoffs. During the conference finals and finals, the NBA will launch more spots using the same theme that focus on great plays by NBA legends including Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird and Julius Erving.
Mr. Meiseles said the league is excited because, in addition to airing the NBA’s spots, its TV partners will be running similar campaigns.
“This season’s campaign is collaboration between the NBA and its partner networks,” he said.
“We feel what they’re saying is what we want to be saying and vice versa,” said Jeff Gonyo, senior director of sports marketing at ESPN.
As the network gets deeper into the playoffs, it will create black-and-white promos showing pivotal plays from the previous games to create a storyline. That will mean a lot of late nights.
“A lot of times we’re working through the night,” Mr. Gonyo said.
TNT will be taking the spots and tweaking the tagline to reflect the network’s “We Know Drama” slogan, using the line “Where Will the Drama Happen Next?”
“We’re customizing them so that they look and they feel like TNT, but they definitely still have the overall campaign feel of the NBA,” said Jenny Storms, senior VP of marketing and programming at Turner.
Turner also will be using moments from the 25 years it has televised NBA games.
Early on, Turner will tag spots with its “40 Games in 40 Nights” position, then switch over to “Win or Go Home” when deciding games are to be played.


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