By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor
December 15, 2010: ESPN is counting on some heavy hitters, including LeBron James, Jack Black, Lamar Odom, Johnny Depp and a cast of minions, to get more viewers and marketers excited about its six-month old ESPN 3D.
On Dec. 17, ESPN 3D will air its first NBA game when the Miami Heat and its three stars — James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — visit the New York Knicks and Amar'e Stoudemire at Madison Square Garden. During the telecast, ESPN 3D will unveil the world premiere of the 3D trailer for Walt Disney Pictures Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides starring Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow. The fourth installment in the Pirates franchise, but the first available in 3D, is scheduled to hit theaters next May. ESPN is a division of Disney Co.
During the Miami-New York game, ESPN 3D will also air 3D spots from Universal for the DVD release of its animated hit, Despicable Me with the voice of Steve Carell and his minion followers; Philips will run a 3D commercial for its Norelco 3D razor; Sony, an official sponsor of ESPN 3D; and ESPN will run its own 3D promotion.
ESPN also this week broke marketing for the five-game NBA slate it will air with sibling ABC on Dec. 25, beginning with a game on ESPN 3D with the Chicago Bulls visiting the Knicks. ABC is getting a pair of highly anticipated games — the Boston Celtics at the Orlando Magic and the Heat visiting the Los Angeles Lakers — and ESPN will get two more games that evening: the Denver Nuggets at the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Portland Trail Blazers visiting the Golden State Warriors.
A promo spot featuring Jack Black supports the Dec. 25 double-header on ABC as well as his upcoming movie, Gulliver's Travels, which also is scheduled to hit theaters on Dec. 25. In the spot, Black is overseeing the "Christmas Day NBA World Tiny Player Championship," which features miniature figures of such players as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Lamar Odom. Black provides his own commentary as he moves the figures around on a basketball court at Gulliver's Arena.
"LeBron alley-oops to Wade," who slams home a dunk thanks to Black's manipulations. Then he moves to the Howard figure, offering, "Dwight Howard . . . fight the 'powered,'" as the Orlando Magic center dunks the ball. Next it's "Kobe going one-on-one with Pierce . . . dishes to Larmar Odom . . . Now you're wide open [Lamar] . . . Shoot it!"
However, rather than shoot, the Odom figure comes to life. "Dude, you're dreaming," he says looking up at Black. "Don't argue. Just shoot it," Black yells back. "Wake up," Odom shouts. "Wait," replies Black. "You mean I'm literally dreaming?" Black wakes up, but he is tied down after having been captured by the Lilliputians in a scene from Gulliver's Travels.
As Black shouts in disbelief, a voiceover chimes in: "Watch the NBA on Christmas Day and see Gulliver's Travels on Christmas Day [in 3D]."
ESPN 3D network launched in June during the FIFA World Cup. The network has 11 NBA games on its 3D schedule during the regular season and will air several playoff games. ESPN 3D’s upcoming telecasts also are scheduled to include the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 10, Winter X Games beginning on Jan. 27 and college basketball's Big East Tournament in March.
A study released in November from ESPN Research + Analytics found that viewers who participated in tests had better recall of ads in 3D than the same ads in standard 2D and that purchase intent increased from 49% after seeing a 2D ad to 83% when the same ad was shown in 3D.
By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor