Basketball icon Karem Abdul-Jabbar makes a cameo appearance in a Priceline TV spot that started airing Feb. 14.
William Shatner, an icon himself, stars in the spots for his 13th year. Actress Naomi Pryce co-stars this year as his sidekick. Abdul-Jabbar is best known as the NBA's all-time leading scorer.
Abdul-Jabbar's appearance in the TV spot, created by Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, was serendipitous. "We were shooting the spot in Los Angeles and the agency had connections," Priceline spokesperson Brian Ek tells Marketing Daily. "That specific ad was a spoof on Shatner and Naomi Pryce using different disguises as part of their negotiations. Having little Naomi disguise herself as Kareem, we thought was pretty funny."
The online discount travel service's demographic hasn't changed, Ek says. "It's still leisure travelers who want to save the most money possible on their travel," he says. "What has changed, though, is the spectrum of consumers that fit the demographic, since it's getting broader."
When Priceline launched in 1999, the target audience was "early adopters" on the Internet. "Now, the wired population includes seniors, families, retirees, professionals," Ek says. "They're not afraid to buy things online. And, with this economy, they want a deal."
Shatner is an even better fit for the brand today because, with all his recent TV work, the actor has reintroduced himself to a younger generation and is recognized by young and old, Ek adds.
TV buffs know Shatner for his work in series like "$#*! My Dad Says," "Raw Nerve," "Boston Legal" and "Star Trek." In the Priceline spots, he plays The Priceline Negotiator -- a shrewd, hard-bargaining professional negotiator who will stop at nothing to obtain the best travel deals and maximum savings for Priceline customers.
The new campaign takes place in the inner sanctum of Priceline's CIA-like "Department of Negotiation", where Shatner, Naomi Pryce and Big Deal show how Priceline gets its Name Your Own Price hotel rooms at discounts of up to 60% off published rates. The spots will air on national broadcast and cable outlets.
Abdul-Jabbar is no stranger to marketing. As of late, he has been appearing in ads for Skechers USA as part of the shoe brand's "Comeback" campaign. The former basketball player also has partnered with Novartis Oncology to raise awareness about Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia, a deadly type of blood cancer he was diagnosed with in December 2008.