The National Basketball Association is letting the ball talk in a major ad campaign to promote the playoffs and finals. The new campaign, via Goodby Silverstein & Partners, has two phases -- one in which basketballs reminisce about great moments in which players dribbled, passed and shot them into hoops and a second wherein they interview legendary players.
The effort, called "First Hand," will run April 8 through June 15 on ABC, ESPN, TNT, and NBA TV as well as online. It comprises six TV spots in 30- and 15-second versions, with four brand spots and two spots for the finals.
In the initial ads, basketballs reminisce about their experiences at critical moments in the games and about the legendary players who make it happen. In the two final spots, offering a glimpse of NBA heritage through the eyes of past champions, the balls interview two NBA legends.
Four ads that will run during the playoffs feature the voices of actors and celebrities who are basketball fans: Michael Clarke Duncan ("The Green Mile"), Hank Azaria ("The Simpsons" and others), John Slattery ("Iron Man II"), and Charlie Murphy (comedian, actor and younger brother of Eddie Murphy).
The two ads running in the finals have the ball, voiced by sports announcer Roy Firestone, interviewing Magic Johnson and Julius Erving.
Danny Meiseles, the NBA's EVP and executive producer for production, programming and broadcasting, said that creatively, the league decided to go in a new direction this year. "We wanted to capture the excitement, intensity and energy of the playoffs and finals," he says. "But we really tried to expand the horizons creatively and look for a different voice to tell the story. We came up with the one thing that is always constant in our game. We thought, 'If the ball could talk, what could it tell you?'"
Meiseles says the ads will run on a range of channels and their digital properties and that ESPN will use the talking-basketball platform for topical commentary about the playoffs and finals. "Since it's a joint campaign the media weight behind it is extensive when you add up in-game across the networks, and out of game on ESPN, TNT, ABC, NBA TV, NBA.com, and ESPN.com," he says.
Meiseles says the idea came from the creative shop. "We challenged Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to push the envelope creatively as we have with all our campaigns and they definitely did it. We want to give fans the storyline of the playoffs, and stay true to core of game."