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The Continental Basketball Association, a second-tier league whose best players are regularly poached by the National Basketball Association, has recruited Spike/ DDB in an attempt to get more respect.

New Line Television, a division of Time Warner's New Line Cinema that serves as the league's marketing agent, hired New York-based Spike/DDB without a review. The agency is a joint venture between DDB Needham Worldwide and filmmaker/basketball fanatic Spike Lee.

Spike/DDB is no stranger to the sports world; it has handled assignments for such clients as Fox Sports Net, the NBA's Miami Heat and Showtime Sports.

In an interview with Advertising Age, Mr. Lee said he believes the CBA has a unique opportunity to raise its profile, especially as a result of the current labor dispute between NBA players and owners.


"Look at minor league baseball, it's huge right now," said Mr. Lee. "It's more affordable and people can relate better to the players because the players are more respectful. And with this NBA lockout, who knows how long it will take to be resolved and what effect it'll have."

The CBA is comprised of nine teams in small markets. Over the last 16 years, over 400 CBA players have graduated to the NBA. Still, the league, which is independent but serves as the "official developmental league" of the NBA, has earned little respect.

New Line was hired last year to develop the CBA's brand identity, although its efforts have been frustrated by turnover within the CBA's leadership. But New Line is pushing ahead, producing a one-hour TV special about the history of the league to be syndicated early next year; developing various programming concepts; and signing Atlantic Records to program the musical entertainment for all CBA games and events.


"The CBA needs a personality," said Chris Russo, exec VP-New Line Television. "We have to have a differentiated position from different sports brands and sports leagues."

Spike/DDB will craft an overall identity for the league, developing ads and designing a new logo for the CBA and its teams.

"We've asked them to handle the total look of the league, from what the basketball should look like to different ways of dressing up the floor, but always maintaining the legitimacy of the league," Mr. Russo said.

Mr. Lee, who will be directly involved in the agency's efforts, said he grew up "making sketches of logos and uniforms for all types of stuff. This totally gives us a chance to use our creative ideas to build a league."

Mr. Lee said he's even willing to throw his celebrity clout behind the league. "As long as I don't have to travel to Cucamonga," he said, in a joking reference to the CBA's presence in tiny markets.


The filmmaker's involvement could run even deeper. "I've always thought about buying a sports franchise somewhere down the line. Maybe it should be in the CBA," he said. "Is there a franchise in Cucamonga?"

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