Feb. 14, 2009: Charles Barkley made his marketing return under the friendliest of settings on Friday, in a T-Mobile spot on TNT during the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge as part of the NBA All-Star Weekend in his hometown of Phoenix. It was the first new T-Mobile spot for Barkley since his arrest for suspicion of DUI on New Year's Eve, which led to the company pulling his spots from rotation and Barkley taking a leave of absence from his role as an analyst on TNT's "Inside the NBA." The spot, "Dwight Barkley," via Publicis, Seattle, also features longtime T-Mobile partner Dwyane Wade and added Dwight Howard. In the spot, which aired several times and is also running online at T-Mobile's NBA Web site, Barkley is playing an NBA 2K9 videogame against Wade when Howard calls. When Howard learns that Barkley is controlling Howard's videogame counterpart, he pleads with Wade to stop the game. Just then, Barkley says, "I'm going to try something fancy." As the real Howard exclaims, "No. No. No," Barkley says, "Opps." Howard asks, "What just happened?" To which Wade replies, "Chuck just pulled your hamstring." The tag continues, "Who's in your Fave Five." T-Mobile was silent on Barkley's return, even omitting him from a press release detailing the company's activation during NBA All-Star Weekend. In addition to the Rookie Challenge sponsorship, in which Wade and Howard served as assistant coaches, other T-Mobile activities during NBA All-Star 2009 include the T-Mobile area at NBA All-Star Jam Session presented by adidas where fans can participate in an interactive basketball theme park or watch an NBA player teach in a coaching clinic. In Phoenix , a large wallscape on the exterior of the Bank of America building features T-Mobile’s own “All-Star Faves” — Wade, Howard and Yao Ming - but not Barkley. An older spot with Wade, Barkley and Ming was put into the rotation on Saturday night. T-Mobile also has launched the "myFaves Shot of a Lifetime," which offers the winner a trip with his or her five favorite friends" to square off against Wade during the Eastern Conference Finals for a chance to win $50,000." T-Mobile's most recent public comments on Barkley came in January when Mike Belcher, vice president of brand communications and experience marketing, T-Mobile, said in a statement, "Given the recent developments, for the time being, we've replaced TV ads featuring Mr. Barkley with more general-market advertising. As he works through his personal matters, we will evaluate where to go from here."
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