WNBA hands the ball to aspiring creatives in do-it-yourself ads

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It may not be 15 minutes of fame, but the Women's National Basketball Association is giving some fans 30 seconds of TV airtime.

The league kicks off its season opener today with a homemade TV spot created by a trio of 16-year-old WNBA fans from the Bronx. It's the first commercial to air as part of the association's "What You Got Spots" promotion, in which fans 13 years old and up were invited to submit ideas for WNBA ads. Earlier this month, the WNBA put out a call for ad entries through a TV spot featuring Washington Mystic player and WNBA all-star Nikki McCray.

Selected spots will air on network and cable TV, while the majority of submissions will be posted on the WNBA's Web site (wnba.com).

FAN-FRIENDLY

The do-it-yourself ad approach is designed to let fans express their passion for the WNBA, said Scott Weinstock, VP-senior creative director at NBA Entertainment Advertising Group, Secaucus, N.J.

In addition to the ad featuring Ms. McCray, the WNBA put out the creative solicitation online and contacted high schools. The NBA Entertainment Advertising Group will match players with fans who submitted the best storyboards and help them produce their spots.

So far, Mr. Weinstock has received two fully shot ads, a multitude of storyboards and hundreds of e-mails about the promotion.

"I want to do as little to these ads as possible," he said. "All these kids are taking their own initiative. We're saying, `We'll give you the film footage. We'll give you the graphics. The rest is up to you.' "

The roughly shot, single-camera ad debuting today features teen Toya Orr, who takes a subway to a one-on-one game. In a voice-over, she says: "As I walk through my block in the morning, I think about the game. I step on the train knowing that obstacles will come my way. But in my head I'm not just another kid. I'm a WNBA player arriving at the game. As I step on the court, my challenge awaits me. I'm not letting anything stand in my way. I'm giving my best for the game."

`CREATIVE FLAIR'

The WNBA is not alone in its do-it-yourself approach. No longer satisfied with simple talent searches, companies are taking consumer input a step further.

Last week, KFC Corp. joined marketers such as Converse and Shedd's Spread Country Crock in enlisting consumer creative. KFC called out to "consumers with a creative flair" to "take part in the action and create the next hot commercial" for its "Sandwich Superstar" advertising contest.

The NBA's Mr. Weinstock said he's also noticed an increase in marketers' use of consumer talent for creative, but is not concerned that popularity will make the approach any less effective. "I wouldn't back off the idea just because other people are doing it," he said.

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