By Barry Janoff
November 27, 2012: Ricky Rubio was 14 when he began to play pro basketball in his native Spain, and was 16 when he was drafted by the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009.
Last season, he made his NBA debut, but the highly heralded point guard saw his rookie campaign cut short after 41 games when he tore the ACL in his left knee.
Rubio, who was averaging 10.6 points and 8.2 assists, underwent reconstructive knee surgery and has yet to return to the court. He began workouts last week and could be back on the court in early December.
Encouraged by that news, adidas and Foot Locker this week will break a humorous marketing campaign featuring Rubio, which asks the question, Is the 22-year-old basketball star using amateur wrestling to get back into shape?
The effort is anchored by a 30-second spot, "Backyard Wrestler," which shows Rubio as hoops fans remember him and as the T-Wolves would again like to see him: Running up and down the court, shooting jump shots and assisting teammates with pinpoint passes.
The spot supports adidas basketball shoes available for the holidays at Foot Locker and FootLocker.com, including the adi Rose 773, adi Originals Top Court Fat Stripes and the adi Originals Ultrastar collection.
The commercial will run on TV during sports programming as well as at adidas and Foot Locker destinations on YouTube. Support includes social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
"Backyard Wrestler" opens with Rubio dribbling down the court and evading a defender with a slick crossover move. He then passes off to a teammate, who scores on a nasty dunk.
But the spot is as much about Rubio's off-court activities as his on-court moves.
"After Ricky Rubio finishes crossing up defenders, does he leave the court and become Ricky Rubio, backyard wrestler?" asks a voiceover.
The action then cuts to an isolated backyard located in a rural town. Two bed mattresses are on the ground and a group of kids are watching as one of their friends and Rubio try to re-enact their favorite WWE moves. After a few seconds, both Rubio and his opponent are flailing helplessly on the mats.
Then it's back to reality as the next scene shows Rubio dressed for a night on the town, sporting a pair of the latest adidas.
"Don't be ridiculous!" the voiceover says of Rubio's amateur wrestling career. "When he leaves the court, he's still international icon Ricky Rubio. And all his gear is Foot Locker approved."
(See the full spot here.)
The Rubio campaign runs concurrent with an on-going adidas effort featuring another NBA point guard, Derrick Rose of the Chciago Bulls, who is also recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee.