With the NBA Championship in the books, all basketball eyes are turning toward the upcoming draft, and Foot Locker hopes to make a splash with new ads featuring Ben Simmons.
Simmons, 19, is the top draft pick, and will reportedly be chosen by the Philadelphia 76ers. In the first of the Foot Locker spots, called “It’s Not Real Yet,” Simmons asks for advice for his rookie season from a papier-mâché version of Karl Anthony Towns, who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves and went first in last year’s draft.
In the second, called “It’s Real Now,” the 6’10” Aussie gets advice from real-live former rookies, including Towns, Devin Booker and D'Angelo Russell, who spoofs his own errors by tossing Simmons' cell phone into the bay, saying "Trust me." (Russell landed himself in a heap o’ hot water after recording L.A. Lakers teammate Nick Young’s admission that he was unfaithful to his girlfriend, rapper Iggy Azalea. No one seems happy.)
The ads, from BBDO, are scheduled to air on ESPN during the live NBA Draft 2016 presented by State Farm.
Simmons is also set to appear with other NBA prospects in “Media Training,” which the company says it intends to release later this week. It’s the second year for the video, in partnership with Kids Foot Locker, where kids drill draftees with questions.
Not so surprisingly, both spots are full of Nike gear. Nike accounts for about 72% of all sales at Foot Locker, writes Paul Trussell, an analyst who follows the retailer for Deutsche Bank, “and it remains a key Nike growth partner. We are confident that their exclusive product relationship will continue.” And despite a slowdown in sales of basketball shoes, Foot Locker “remains uniquely positioned as a market leader in a robust retail sub-sector, benefiting from the broader athleisure trend with multiple levers to pull in order to drive both top-line and bottom-line growth.”