Adidas Pushes Dwight Howard as Social Networking Spokesjock

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There were fabulous dunks, but Adidas was pushing 180 for the big 360 during the NBA's All Star weekend.

The agency attempted to blanket the web with bits of celebrity-insider content from young Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.

Anchored by a TV spot directed by PrettyBird's Paul Hunter called "ManChild of the East" the push branched out into Twitter, Flickr and YouTube, pushing content from Howard out to fans on the net as quickly as possible for the duration of the event last weekend. Along with content on the Adidas Basketball site aiming for a channel model, the brand is working up a lather of content.

"[The biggest challenge was] getting the site, technology and media ready to deliver a constant steam of communication, that alone was a huge task and all credit goes to the folks who worked day and night to pull it off," says 180/LA ECD William Gelner. 180/Los Angeles worked in concert with Amsterdam-based Riot, an agency created by 180 and TBWA to service the adidas account on the effort. "Add the logistics involved in legally capturing all the content at the event and then posting it in almost real time and making sure it's all cool, that's a whole other level of impossible."

The campaign aligns itself with the notion of constant communication 180 partner agency TBWA/Worldwide's chief digital officer Colleen DeCourcy has mentioned in connection with the brand before.

While this is certainly one of the larger concerted efforts to get an athlete involved in these networks, it's unclear how thorough the immersion is.

Howard's Twitter account, while followed by 664 others, doesn't follow anyone, and hasn't managed to graduate from Twitter 101 and attempt @replies or ReTweets. Compare Howard with Shaquille O'Neal, who has been vocal about claiming his online identity and boasts over 111,000 followers and a more advanced familiarity with the service. O'Neal and Howard have jousted over who gets to be called Superman on the court, but it's clear Shaq is the social networking man of steel.

Additionally, there's a clear imbalance between the size of audience for reality-type programming, like Howard's web films and Flickr photos, and the crisper content like the TV spot. While the latter (which has so far only aired in China) has over 2 million views online, some of Howard's Flickr photos have barely broken 100 views and the YouTube efforts are struggling to break five figures.

"We see the value of both [types of content]," Gelner says. "TV gives you the reach and emotional benefit of placing a message in the context of programming. A great basketball message during a great basketball game. With the webfilms, you're getting a different slice of the audience. Probably younger, more digitally savvy. People who are actively seeking out that content, with greater willingness to engage with it. Then there's the ability for direct action like seeking more messaging, more content, passing it along or perhaps even a sale. All of which we can more accurately measure and give a value to."

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