By Barry Janoff
April 17, 2014: For the past few seasons, LeBron James has been the most marketed player in the NBA, with a peak during the playoffs when he has appeared in ads that included Nike, Sprite, McDonald's and Samsung.
Last season, however, as he led the Miami Heat to their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance and second consecutive NBA championship, James' on-air marketing appearances were conspicuous by their absence and mainly focused on a campaign for Beats By Dre.
Concurrently, Kevin Durant stepped up his playoff marketing game. During the 2013 post-season, the forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder appeared in a bevy of TV spots, including Sprint, Skullcandy, Gatorade, Nike, NBA's BIG and BBVA Compass.
Now, with the 2014 playoffs underway, Durant is again hitting the national marketing trail. First up, Durant stars in a new spot for Sprint to support the NBA's official wireless telecommunications provider's Family Plan.
The multi-platform effort sees Durant being invited to join The Frobinsons, a fictitious loopy clan being brought to life in the current Sprint campaign, which includes a hamster for a dad, a daughter who speaks only French and a son who is the only one in the group with a heavy southern drawl. The Frobinsons pay homage to the similarly loopy but close-knit futuristic family from the 2007 Disney animated movie, Meet the Robinsons.
In addition to a TV spot, Durant will be featured in digital extensions supporting the Sprint Framily Plan.
Sprint said that Nascar driver Jeff Gordon soon would be joining The Frobinsons.
Durant earns about $12-$14 million in endorsements, according to industry analysts. This is his third spot for Sprint.
He recently signed with Roc Nation Sports, headed by Jay-Z, as the agency's first NBA client.
James tops $42 million in endorsements, including a current campaign for McDonald's.
“We’re proud to introduce Kevin Durant as the newest member of our Frobinsons campaign” Jeff Hallock, CMO for Sprint, said in a statement. “Kevin is an ideal role model for any kid to dream of having as a part of their Framily.”
The premise of the 30-second spot, according to Sprint, is that "kids across America dream about getting the chance to talk with an NBA superstar like Kevin Durant."
The action opens with Frobinsons son Zach in a treehouse asking his mom if Durant, who appears to be 50 feet tall, "can join our Sprint Framily plan."
Mom, unfazed by the gigantic hoops player in her front yard, agrees. "The more people we add, the more we save," she says with a smile.
Unfortunately, Durant, wearing his Thunder uniform, has to refuse the offer. "I'm not really here," he tells the kid. "You're dreaming."
To prove his point, Durant's basketball shoes sprout rockets and he is boosted skyward.
A voiceover is immune to the weird going's on. "The Sprint Framily Plan is available to new and existing customers. The more people added to the group, up to ten phone lines total, the greater the savings for everyone on the plan." (See the full spot here.)
The campaign was created by Figliulo&Partners in partnership with DigitasLBi and MediaVest.
On Madison Avenue, KD Is The Peyton Manning Of Basketball Marketing
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