The sporting-goods marketer launches a TV spot May 1 from Winstanley Associates, Lenox, Mass., featuring National Basketball Association star Hakeem Olajuwon. In the commercial, a baby ditches its rattle for a basketball-a gift from Mr. Olajuwon-and begins twirling it about like a pro, courtesy of computer-generated special effects.
The ad closes with a new tagline: "Spalding: Official ball of the NBA. What are you playing?"
The boost in TV spending is part of a renewed sponsorship pact with the NBA that extends Spalding's 14-year relationship with the league through 2001. Spalding is also a charter sponsor of the Women's National Basketball Association, launching this summer. That three-year deal is said to be worth $5 million.
$1 MIL IN ONE MONTH
Spalding plans to spend more than $1 million in the next month airing the TV ad. It will run during NBA playoff games on NBC and TBS, and also during sports news programs on CNN, ESPN and regional sports networks. The campaign also includes print ads.
Additionally, Spalding plans to create TV ads that will run during WNBA broadcasts on NBC, ESPN and Lifetime this summer. The company also might run a tweaked version of the "Baby Carriage" ad, with Mr. Olajuwon replaced by a WNBA star.
Until recently, Spalding had never used TV in its basketball marketing, focusing more on print and point-of-purchase displays. It did run a TV ad in February called "One Ball," tied to the 50th anniversary of the NBA.
Next season, Spalding will increase its ad spending on NBA broadcast and will run "One Ball" and "Baby Carriage" until about midseason, when new branding creative will hit.
"We're moving into a branding strategy," said Joe Baltronis, director of marketing for Spalding's sporting goods group. "KKR is very much into brand building, which increases value for its stockholders. We felt we needed to move into TV advertising as we begin to emphasize and build the Spalding brand in basketball."
Overall, Spalding spent $650,000 on measured-media advertising last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. The marketer's sales hit $700 million in 1995, according to trade magazine SportStyle.