By Barry Janoff
October 2, 2014: As part of a new campaign from McDonald's, a TV commercial heralds the return of a star, and then gives us a shot of LeBron James, who this season again will play for the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers after spending four seasons with the Miami Heat. But in a humorous turn, the camera then focuses on Mr. Moneybags, the iconic character from the Hasbro game, Monopoly.
The spot, "He's Back," helps to support this year's version of the fast-feeder's Monopoly promotion. Among other items it is offering such prizes as cash, vacations, a shopping experience in Target and the opportunity to have a "one-on-one experience: with James and a host of other sports stars, including Patrick Kane of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks), U.S. Women's National Soccer Team star forward Alex Morgan and Nascar driver Jamie McMurray.
The promotion runs now through Oct. 27 (details here).
The campaign includes several TV spots, print, Internet and POP. Lead agency is DDB, Chicago.
A "Playing for Greatness" commercial stars all four athletes. James is featured solo in "Top Hat" (in which he sports a real version of the Monopoly top hat game piece) and co-stars with Mr. Moneybags.
James was drafted by the Cavaliers out of Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in 2003, where he stayed until signing with the Heat as a free agent in 2010-11. He helped lead the team to four consecutive NBA Finals, including back-to-back championships, before reuniting with the Cavs for the 2014-15 campaign.
"He's Back" opens with shots of James in a limo driving at the junction of 90 East and Interstate 490 leading into Cleveland. As fans holding "Welcom Back" signs clamor along the roadway, a voiceover says, "He's back. And the lovin' is greater than ever."
But when the rear passenger window rolls down, we see that their focus is directed toward Mr. Moneybags, seated next to James, waving to the crowd. When the car heads to a McDonald's Drive-Thru, James thanks an exuberant server who is handling the order, but, again, it's actually Mr. Moneybags who has her attention.
"Welcome back," James says to Mr. Moneybags, who responds, "You, too."
"Let's play this game," James concludes. (See the full spot here.)
James has been a McDonald's endorser since 2010. He is ranked first on the 2014 Sports Illustrated Fortune 50 list of U.S. athletes with some $38 million in annual endorsements. His deals also include Nike, Coca-Cola (Sprite), Beats by Dre (now owned by Apple), Samsung, Dunkin' Donuts and Upper Deck.
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