By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor
March 20, 2011: In keeping with the NBA's mantra this season to create super teams in Miami, New York and elsewhere, Blake Griffin and Dwyane Wade are about to become über teammates. However, LeBron James has nothing to worry about.
AT&T said it has entered into a deal under which it would "acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom in a cash-and-stock transaction currently valued at approximately $39 billion." The agreement has been approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies, but both sides said the merger, which still faces government approval, could take up to a year to finalize.
T-Moblie, which has been an official marketing partner of the NBA since 2005, currently features in its national marketing Wade, a teammate of James' on the Miami Heat, as well as NBA analyst Charles Barkley.
AT&T recently signed Griffin and this past weekend released its first commercial starring the forward from the Los Angeles Clippers.
The NBA has yet to comment on the AT&T deal with T-Mobile.
Griffin continues to build on his ability to dunk a basketball better than most, one of the key reasons he has attracted national marketing attention. Drafted out of Oklahoma by the Clippers in 2009, he missed the entire season due to a broken left kneecap and is now considered to be in his rookie year.
AT&T said that by acquiring T-Mobile, the company is committed "to a significant expansion of robust 4G LTE (long term evolution) deployment to 95% of the U.S. population to reach an additional 46.5 million Americans beyond current plans."
The new spot for AT&T, "Download the Kiss," already supports this strategy. In it, Griffin is seen in a gym with a bunch of buddies looking on as he attempts some high-flyin' dunks. After he does a three-sixty and throws one down, the other guys, who apparently have seen much better, start hooting and whistling at him. "Wommp-wommp," chides one. "What else you got?"
Blake stares at them, knowing he's got a couple of tricks up his sleeve. First, he picks up his cell phone and hits a button. Then, holding the cell phone in one hand, he tosses a basketball off the backboard with his other hand, catches it and slams it through the basket.
But Griffin is not done. When he lands on the court, he shows the phone to his friends. It reads, "Downloading video," then "Complete." A video of a beautiful woman is on the screen. Griffin holds the phone to his cheek and smiles as the woman in the video gives him a kiss, which immediately both silences and impresses the other guys.
As Griffin smiles, a voiceover offers, "In the network, perfect endings download faster. AT&T is getting faster with 4G." Followed by the tag: AT&T. Rethink possible." (See full spot here.)
This is Griffin's second new spot since the NBA All-Star Game, both of which focus on his dunking abilities. The first, for Kia, used actual footage from Griffin's winning dunk during the Sprite Slam Dunk event in which he jumped over the hood of a Kia Sorento, took a pass through the open sunroof from then Los Angeles Clippers teammate Baron Davis (who has since been traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers) and slammed the ball through the net.
Griffin also has a national deal with Subway, including a recent spot in which he talks about — but is not actually seen — dunking. However, a sub-site at the Subway Web site enables visitors to place their head on Griffin's body and then watch "themselves" perform five dunks.
In addition, he has a marketing alliance with Nike.
Regarding the AT&T deal with T-Mobile, Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO, said in a statement, “This transaction represents a major commitment to strengthen and expand critical infrastructure for our nation’s future. It will improve network quality, and it will bring advanced LTE capabilities to more than 294 million people."