Thursday, November 02, 2006

Nike buys SportsCenter, gets bonus product placements

The NBA season, along with the new sneaker wars have already started, and Nike just fired a hellacious salvo.

On Wednesday night, Nike became the first advertiser ever to be the sole sponsor for ESPN's SportsCenter. For one hour, The LeBrons took over the popular sports show, showing several hilarious new ads from the fictional family that features the 'four sides of LeBron James', promoting the Nike Air Zoom LeBron IV.

The spots alone during SportsCenter would have been effective enough, but along with the buyout of the program's advertising, ESPN also ran a segment on LeBron, and invited viewers to go to to answer a poll question about the superstar. And, you guessed it, Nike has bought space for the campaign on as well.

The segment and poll question on LeBron airing during SportsCenter effectively resulted in Nike getting a pair of bonus 'product placements' for LeBron, which will translate in sales of Nike's new shoe the Nike Air Zoom LeBron IV.

But I'm wondering, is this another case of trying to blur the lines between fiction and reality, such as Sacha Baron Cohen appearing in character as Borat on Late Night With David Letterman? Could we next see 'Business LeBron'(one of the characters in The LeBrons commercials) appear on Letterman, or in the ultimate surreal moment, have Business appear in the next commercial for SportsCenter?

Either way, it's another marketing home-run for Nike, or in this case, a slam-dunk.


J.D. said...

And yet, at the same time, it destroys the integrity of SportsCenter.

Sometimes too much is just too much.

Mack Collier said...

I don't agree, simply because SportsCenter running a segment on LeBron James during the NBA season is about as rare as Lee Corso acting like a caricature. While the segment and poll question MAY have been precipitated by the Nike buy, neither occurance is out of character for the show.

Now if Chevy had bought the hour, and SportsCenter had run a segment on NBA players and the Chevys they drive, then yeah, that would wrinkle some noses.

Anonymous said...

Will there be lots of closeup shots of athletes wearing addidas or Reeboks?

**is this another case of trying to blur the lines between fiction and reality**

It's not there yet, but in two more steps, it'll be like one of those half-hour paid shows you see on Sunday afternoons where the TV host interviews the expert on how to buy "In Probate Homes," and promises to show you more at the upcoming seminar "in your area."

Maybe this is closer to it: several years ago at the LATimes, the business side decided to do a Sunday LAT Magazine feature on Staples Center -- and sold them a ton of advertising. The editorial people wrote their stories about Staples -- unaware of the sales deal. They didn't find out until after the fact that their "journalistic integrity" had been comprised by the dealings of the business side. They were extremely pissed off.

Mack Collier said...

Roger that's a good story, and amazing how little inter-departmental communication there can be at many companies!

J.D. said...

I've always been disposed to dislike the blurring of the line between programming and advertising. It's like when you're in the movies and there's this blatant product placement that completely jars you out of the storyline. My worry is that having to devote a certain portion of time to shill for Nike might cost coverage of other lesser but equally deserving sports news. And how much longer before we have musicians selling out ad space in song lyrics (oh wait, Paris Hilton already does that...)

I know this flies in the face of "community," but still, ya gotta hold the line somewhere :)

Stephen Denny said...

That's the beauty of the wild west of the free market. If this deal starts smelling like a sell out -- meaning that SC and Nike do a ham-fisted job of integrating one advertiser's very good content with a well chosen network's offerings -- both will suffer at the hands of the market (and there will be hell to pay from their peers).

Let's give them a shot here. Nike's a smart, smart company in an industry not exactly known for smarts. SportsCenter has a brand of its own to protect. I doubt this is a new subject to either of them.

This isn't product integration. This is pretty smart stuff. Let's see how they do.