Brotherhood is Bond

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Some might say it's only a game, but for both fans and players of the NBA, it's life. For its latest campaign, Adidas and 180 L.A. go beyond the hoop dreams, big contracts and super-stardom to show that, above all, basketball is a team sport. With the NBA regular season kicking off next week, the "Basketball is a Brotherhood" campaign, promoting Adidas' new Team Signature lines, takes the brand's biggest stars—namely Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Gilbert Arenas, Chauncey Billups, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard—and has them teach some budding stars the true meaning of basketball.

"If you've been following the game as long as I have and if you're as old as I am, you've seen a lot of stuff in the game of basketball," says 180 L.A. executive creative director William Gelner. "One of the things that any journalist, fan, player or coach in the NBA all the way down to junior high will tell you—and it's a universal truth—is that you don't win championships if you don't play as a team. It's so true that it's maybe become cliché."

For Gelner, the teamwork facet of basketball is often underrated in the age of sports marketing. "It's one of those things that has been either overlooked or just not talked about, maybe because it's just not that sexy on the surface or maybe because in the last 20 years of sports marketing, it's been all about the individual," he claims. "It's all about the 360-degree, tomahawk-dunking phenom that's 9 years-old. So, for whatever reason, that's happened, and the whole notion of a team and the importance of it have missed a generation."

He continues, "It's too bad because when you really think about it, the best teams were and are now all about that. If you look at the [San Antonio] Spurs, they're all about it and look what they're doing—they're a dynasty. The reason they're a dynasty is because how they play. Tim Duncan, who's one of Adidas' main guys, is a poster boy for it. He's pretty selfless in the way he plays but boy, do they tear teams apart."

With Duncan and the rest of the stars on board, 180 L.A. snagged music video director Paul Hunter to document a week-long training camp for a handful of potential greats from the next generation. "The first thing we did, since we felt like the [brotherhood] notion has skipped a generation, we said let's go to that group: young guys who are really into hoops," Gelner explains. "So we created an event where we found the top ten or twelve young players out there... like 12-year-old kids. Many of them are on [Amateur Athletic Union] teams and they were guys who had skills. Most of them could dunk with two elbows above the rim, so these are kids that are really phenoms in the making. But they're of this generation that not all of them truly understand this concept. So what we did is we threw a basketball camp in the summer here in L.A. and invited these guys. All they knew was that they were being selected to be at a basketball camp this summer run by Adidas, knowing they were coming because of their skills."

But what the group didn't know is that top Adidas-branded superstars were going to be the facilitators, instructors and mentors. "They get here, they get to show off their strengths and show that they could actually dunk with two elbows above the rim," says Gelner. "It was crazy, some of the kids are sporting size 18s. So that's all they knew. They were coming here for that and they were of that 'shoot first, pass second' mentality. But what they didn't know was over the coming week, they were going to actually learn what basketball really was about and they were going to learn it from Adidas's top players—T. Mac, K.G., Chauncey Billups, Dwight Howard and Gilbert [Arenas]."

The somewhat boot-camp was captured on film by Hunter and translated into a series of webisodes that can be viewed on the Adidas basketball site. "Every different episode and every different day of the event with a different player, they would learn something new," Gelner says. "Not in a preachy sort of way, but we try to do it much more down-to-earth and side-by-side."

The webisodes feature NBA stars conveying the values of teamwork while deflating egos in the process. "We had K.G. in the bunks with them hanging out in their dorms; we had T-Mac issuing uniforms," Gelner recalls. "It was all just unscripted and we had the cameras there to capture their reactions. Basically, we just let the players tell them their stories like 'Hey look, K.G., just tell these kids what it's about, what's up with you and what's your idea of brotherhood and teamwork and how did it affect you and get you to where you're at.' We just let them go and you can see they're all very real and genuine moments like Chauncey talking to them after running the stairs and doing drills. He was just laying it down and giving them real talk, and we were seeing how they'd react to that. Like Tim Duncan (below), everyone has their own stories that talk about the notion of teamwork that helped them get to where they're at today to achieve what no on thought they could achieve."

Along with the print, single TV spot and interactive elements, 180 L.A. pressed the mobile aspect of the campaign, using text messages as a way for Adidas stars to interact with their audience. "It's a digitally-led campaign," Gelner says. "Mobile is a crucial part to it as well as interactive. Essentially, we only did one traditional television commercial, and that serves primarily to engage the audience with the idea of brotherhood, intrigue them and keep them wanting more. At the end of the spot, we tell them to text K.G. or Chauncey or whoever, depending on where the spot runs on what game with what player. At the end of the spot, say you text K.G., he calls you back and he'll give you a message and tell you what basketball's all about and how you achieve your impossible. You'll get all these calls from these different athletes and then they'll ask you to check out more at So when you go there, that's when you get all the different webisodes and all the other content that we have there as well as information about the actual show, which is Team Signature."

The brand also executed a takeover of the upcoming issue of SLAM magazine, complete with a Kevin Garnett cover and prominent ad placement. "On the cover, you see K.G. for the first time in his Celtics uniform," says Gelner. "[From the cover], you can actually text him. On the lower right-hand corner, it says text K.G. and when you do, you get a message."

180 L.A. is also planning on tying in brick-and-mortar outfits to seed the event."You're going to actually go to the store and when you see these boxes of 'Team Signature' shoes, they're going to have those quotes by the individual players for the individual shoes so it carries all the way into retail," says Gelner. "At certain retailers, there are going to be interactive screens where you can interact and see all the content and different webisodes there as well." To discuss this article, visit the Creativity Forums.
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