Instead of shooting hoops, however, this team of pros will be developing strategies for AT&T's Olympic marketing efforts, estimated to total more than $300 million.
AT&T has assembled a core group of 18 specialists in new media, public relations, creative strategy, event planning, promotions and media planning, and labeled the group its "Dream Team."
Members include AT&T agencies BBDO Worldwide and the Media Edge, both New York; Cohn & Wolf, Atlanta; Modem Media, Westport, Conn.; Dugan Valva Contess, Morristown, N.J.; and Digital Domain and ad:vent, both Venice, Calif.
AT&T's core agencies-McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Young & Rubicam, N.W. Ayer & Partners, FCB/Leber Katz Partners, all New York; and Boston-based Bronner Slosberg Humphrey-aren't part of the team, though the Media Edge is a sister agency of Ayer.
Y&R actually did some of the initial strategic planning for the team, but was replaced by BBDO when the latter was named AT&T's Olympic agency of record last March.
After the torch is snuffed in Atlanta, the team will stay together, working on other marketing projects for the nation's largest long-distance company.
"I see myself as the coach putting players in the game who have complementary skill sets," said Russ Natoce, AT&T director of Olympic marketing. "Of course, as in any team, it took some time for members to drop their egos and barriers, and start playing like a team."
"Every [AT&T] agency on the outside must be pretty nervous about the Dream Team," said Mark Dowley, managing director of event marketing agency ad:vent. "This type of collaboration is a novel idea. It's something everyone was skeptical of at first, given the competitive nature of agencies....But the common goal has honestly become more important than the goal of each respective turf."
AT&T's Olympic activities include sponsoring the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta and building a Global Olympic Village inside that park. The Dream Team is also building an ambitious site on the World Wide Web (http://www.att.com); launching a major print, TV, outdoor and radio campaign; sponsoring 35 Olympic athletes; and running a number of events and promotions before, during and after the Games.
"One component on its own doesn't matter in the least," Mr. Natoce said. "This is about working together and creating a holistic, fluid approach to marketing. That's how the team members will be compensated."
With the Dream Team, AT&T significantly deviates from the traditional client/agency paradigm.
"We've done similar projects with GM and Phil Guarascio, but AT&T is really the first to move out of the box with a cohesive concept," Mr. Dowley said.
AT&T expects to continue its Dream Team efforts in projects outside of the Olympics.
"The handwriting on the wall says we'll be seeing a lot more of this collaborative-type marketing in the future," Mr. Natoce said. "Projects are getting larger and more global, so it'll become more necessary to combine disciplines and blur boundaries."