Updated June 5, 2009 (Originally posted May 27, 2009: A lot of the post-season marketing talk regarding the NBA has focused on ads from Nike and Vitaminwater putting Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in the spotlight. But companies such as adidas, T-Mobile and even Vitaminwater are supporting Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic, which defeated LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Nike is still running its "Most Valuable Puppets" campaign, with the company saying it is paying homage to two of the top players in the game. Vitaminwater has added to its Kobe-LeBron campaign with a new spot featuring Howard. Howard himself told the media after Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals that he found the Nike "Most Valuable Puppets" spots entertaining but was quick to add, "If we go out there and play, we shouldn’t worry about what we see on TV, the commercials, the write-ups, whatever. Do we find it disrespectful that they’re counting us out? Yeah. But there is nothing we can control. What we can control is how hard we play on the court, and that’s when we get the job done.”
Adidas has been a strong marketing partner of Howard's for years, and af or the NBA Finals has released the 2009 All-Star Game unveiled the TS Commander LT, a sneak peak of the official player edition shoes for the 2009-10 NBA season which will debut at adidas Sport Performance stores Oct. 1. SRP $100). Howard will autograph a pair of the shoes after each Finals game, which will be put up for auction at www.NBA.com after the Finals. And at the NBA Store and at www.NBAStore.com, consumers can purchase a special NBA Finals T-shirt with the images of Bryant and Howard with the tag "Where CRUNCHTIME versus DUNKTIME Happens." Adidas' TechFit PowerWeb line was unveiled at the 2009 All-Star Game with the Magic center as the centerpiece. The undergarments act as a layer of body armor, have officially been endorsed by the NBA and even include an elbow sleeve accessory that Howard has been wearing during the playoffs (in addition to his adidas TS Bounce Commander basketball shoes) complete with an adidas logo. The line hits retail June 1, just three days before the NBA Finals are set to begin, with support that includes a promotion offering adidas gear and a "Give 100%, get 104%" tagged section at adidas.com. Adidas has also just unveiled a video, "Dwight Howard: The Detailed Mechanics of a Commander," an animated homage (from FreeDarko) that focuses on Howard's mental focus, spirit, energy and strength, at one point comparing his legs to the Space Shuttle that helped power him to the 2009 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. T-Mobile will continue to run its spot with Howard, Dwyane Wade and Charles Barkley in which Barkley injures the videogame version of Howard. Howard also figures prominently in Vitaminwater marketing, where he even has appeared along with Bryant and James, so a push involving Howard alone or with Bryant would seem to be in place. Howard's marketing reach, which currently brings him about $15 million in endorsements (which also include McDonald's and others), now extends to the virtual world. Last week, Goodwin Sports Management, Seattle, which handles Howard, signed a deal with Virtual Greats, a virtual goods sales and distribution system, to create a signature line of virtual products for Howard as well as NBA All-Star Kevin Durant and WNBA MVP Candace Parker. The virtual Howard (pictured above), Durant and Parker characters will also be used to promote NBA and WNBA licensed products in online communities.