Q&A: Ryan Morlan
Is 24/7 Access To Dwight "Superman" Howard Too Much Or Not Enough?
By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor, NYSportsJournalism.com
(Posted Feb. 14, 2009)
Will people OD on NBA all-star Dwight Howard when he shares his (almost) every move this weekend using digital technology? We will find out beginning Friday when the Orlando Magic center hits Phoenix and, thanks to adidas, shares his experiences in real time. Howard set an all-star balloting record when he received more than 3.1 million votes. But fans might be anticipating what Howard will do in the dunk contest on Saturday night (on TNT) more than anything else, especially considering his showing in the 2008 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. In a move that immediately became YouTube legend, he pulled off his jersey to reveal a T-shirt with a Superman logo, put on a cape and flew through the air before smashing the ball through the hoop. This time around, Howard has teamed with adidas, the official outfitter of the NBA, on a marketing strategy, "Inside Access with Dwight Howard." The 6'11" center will put himself at the center of attention throughout the weekend by using various forms of digital media to stay in constant communication with fans. The program actually began earlier this week with a pair of videos on YouTube. In "ManChild," we follow his pregame ritual, which now includes putting on adidas' PowerTech PowerWeb and Padded compression gear, which will be part of the 2009 All-Star Game uniform. In "Real Talk," Howard talks about his 2008 slam dunk showing with Kevin Garnett, who also is on adidas' basketball roster. (Updates will be posted at www.adidasbasketball.com.) NYSportsJournalism.com got access to Ryan Morlan, head of global communications for adidas Basketball, talked about the plan to make Dwight Howard the most accessible player in All-Star Game history.
NYSportsJournalism.com: How did Dwight Howard become the star of this production?
Ryan Morlan: He is a fun, young, energetic athlete. He's only 23. He hits that digital age right between the eyes. He pretty much goes to bed still holding his cell phone. He's the closest to the target among [adidas' basketball] athletes. Also, he received more than 3 million all-star votes, and that was digitally led. So Dwight is at the heart of this digitally driven world. So what those 3 million votes told us is that the fans want to see Dwight, they want to hear from Dwight. He is their elected player. Initially Dwight approached us and said that he wanted to do something to give back to the fans who support him. He said he wanted to do something that would make him accessible to fans and something with which he would have fun. So we built a digital platform that could literally allow him to connect with fans and make him accessible to them from the moment he wakes up until the moment he goes to sleep. When we presented this to Dwight, he smiled and said, "I can do anything?!" And our reply was, "Within reason."
NYSJ: What elements are involved in this?
Morlan: He will be sending text messages, he will be taking and sending pictures, uploads from his T-Mobile will go directly to www.adidasbasketball.com. We've posted and will continue to post videos on YouTube, we will be using Flicker and Twitter. We put the power in Dwight's hands to communicate with the fans. And they shouldn't be surprised if they see updates from Dwight every ten minutes much of the time.
NYSJ: It sounds like a 24/7 reality show starring Dwight Howard.
Morlan: It will be as close to 24/7 as you can get. Obviously we give him some privacy at the appropriate moments. But it is a digital reality show starring Dwight. This is a chance for fans to see what he sees and for them to be a part of the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities. This also includes a sneak peak at what he will be doing in the dunk contest. We filmed some action of Dwight at his house trying out different dunks. We shot about half a dozen 5-10 second teasers in which he is talking about which [moves] he might or might not use [on Saturday night]. At one point he even says, "I can't give away all of my dunk secrets, but that's what [this all-access strategy] is all about. I can't take away the surprises, but I can' tell you that I love ..." At which point his voice is bleeped, because he actually gave a hint to something he is going to do during the dunk contest.
"Through Dwight we are giving fans the interior moments. He will do something, react to it, and then text fans his thoughts, send them a voicemail, post videos. And it all will be in real time."
NYSJ: So the strategy is to have fans not just seeing what he is doing at the moment, but also get them anticipating what he might do.
Morlan: The idea is to get fans on the Web excited, to be thinking and chattering about what he might do to top his Superman dunk from last year, or what he might to do top the dunk where he tossed the ball off the back of the backboard and slammed it in. And then [the fans] take that and watch him [on TNT] during the dunk contest. He also will show the adidas shoes he will wear during the contest and a hint as to what [else] he might be doing [similar to last year when he put on the Superman cape]. TNT is bringing the exterior moments of the All-Star Weekend, but through Dwight we are giving fans the interior moments. He will do something, react to it, and then text fans his thoughts, send them a voicemail, post videos. And it all will be in real time, so that fans from Chicago to China can see what is happening as it happens.
NYSJ: Kevin Garnett was in "Real Talk." Will he or any other adidas basketball players be involved over the weekend?
Morlan: There is a great chemistry between Dwight and KG. There was no script when they were talking about the 2008 dunk contest in "Real Talk." So it's all real when KG asks Dwight about his dunks in last year's contest and which ones he might use if he could during an actual game, and is really surprise to hear that Dwight spent time practicing those dunks. You can see they are having fun. So you probably will see KG and Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups and other adidas basketball players show up. At least I hope so. We say that basketball is a brotherhood, so we want to share with fans how these players are friends on and off the court. So don't be surprised to see KG come in and crash the party in a good way.