By Barry Janoff
August 28, 2013: Brad Blevins is like millions of other people who love the NFL but may love their fantasy football team even more. And like many fantasy players, his perception of how good his team is overshadows the reality of their futility.
Tech company Lenovo, entering the second season as an official marketing partner of the NFL, is bringing fantasy football to the forefront via a campaign that includes players, fantasy football and an overhaul of the Pro Bowl in January.
Lenovo is using players including Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts), Alfred Morris (Washington Redskins), Mason Crosby (Green Bay Packers), Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals) and Matt Forte (Chicago Bears) to support a Web-based series, Tough Season and a related "Fantasy Coach of the Year" promotion.
The eight-part Webisode follows the trials and tribulations of Blevins, the fictitious owner and head coach of the fantasy squad, Brad's Awesome Team, which comes in last in its fantasy league every year.
According to Lenovo, Blevins' desire to have the best fantasy football team leads him to connect with real NFL players, as well as using Lenovo products. The series will run on a micro-site at Lenovo's home page. Lenovo said that the real players would support the effort throughout the season with presence on social media and in the videos themselves.
The Lenovo Web series has a direct tie-in with the NFL Pro Bowl, scheduled for Jan. 26, 2014 (on NBC) in Aloha Stadium, Hawaii, a week before Super Bowl XLVIII in MetLife Stadium.
The league and NFL Players Assn. have revamped the format of the Pro Bowl. The major difference is that voting for the two squads will not follow the traditional NFC versus AFC rosters but will use a draft format based on best at position. The top six running backs or quarterbacks selected to play in the game, for example, could potentially all come from one Conference.
A Pro Bowl draft to determine the pool of players eligible to participate in the Pro Bowl is scheduled to take place on Jan. 22 and air on NFL Network. NFL Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice will act as captains.
Lenovo's role is a Fantasy Coach of the Year activation, under which one fantasy football fan will be selected as a head coach to work with either Sanders or Rice. The opposing head coach will be selected from among those who participate in the NFL's own fantasy football league.
Making Blevin's fantasy team could be harder than making the Pro Bowl. In the first episode of Tough Season, Blevin meets with Forte, running back for the Bears. "Your skills make you a perfect fit for any NFL team," Blevin says to Forte. "But this isn't football. This is fantasy football, and I'm looking for players who want to pad their statistics. I'm going to have to drop you." (See the Webisode here.)
Lenovo has partnered with The Onion to support the promotion.
In addition to its Fantasy Coach of the Year campaign, Lenovo will be the presenting sponsor of the NFL Coach of the Year award, to be presented at the NFL Honors show on Feb. 1 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, the night before the Super Bowl.
“Fantasy football is a great platform for showing off the incredibly innovative features of our products,” Kevin Berman, Lenovo’s director of North American advertising and marketing services. said in a statement. “This campaign highlights the best high-tech products that any coach would ever need.”
The company has had official alliances with the NBA (2006-2012) International Olympic Committee and Formula 1 racing. This past January, Lenovo signed a multi-year deal with Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers "to launch Lenovo smartphones and tablets and to enhance the Lenovo brand in China and Southeast Asia."
The first activation in the U.S, of that deal with Bruant has now hit the airwaves via a two-minute spot in which Bryant plays Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano with string accompanists.
Lenovo, based in Beijing with U.S. headquarters in Morrisville, NC, is an $84 billion personal technology company (personal computers, tablet computers, smartphones, workstations, servers, electronic storage devices, IT management software and smart TVs) in its second year as the official laptop, desktop and workstation of the NFL.