McDonald's Eyes Reprise of 'Nothin but Net' Spot

Fast Feeder Negotiating With LeBron, Wade in Bid to Update Classic Ad

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McDonald's Corp. is in talks with National Basketball Association stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to star in a remake of the fast-feeder's classic "Nothin' but Net" spots, Advertising Age has learned.
Next gen: Dwyane Wade, left, and LeBron James
Next gen: Dwyane Wade, left, and LeBron James Credit: Brian Snyder

Should Mickey D's prevail in the months-long negotiations, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat stars would pick up where round-ball greats Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley left off in 1994. That "Showdown" series began with a 1993 Super Bowl spot from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, in which Messrs. Jordan and Bird faced off in a friendly shooting match similar to "horse." The prize: M.J.'s Big Mac and fries.

The two men set up increasingly difficult shots, from draining the net on one knee to shooting through a window, dropping from a skyscraper and going to hilarious extremes. The original spot is on all-time top-10 lists for many critics and observers.

A slam dunk?
The idea is to "contemporize 'Nothin' but Net' to 2007 and make it relevant for the two best players in the NBA today and fit their personalities and relationship," said Bill Lamar, chief marketing officer for McDonald's USA, noting the effort will be executed across multiple media platforms. "Our goal is to have it ready for the NBA finals." Production has yet to begin. He noted this is not an endorsement deal.

The idea grew out of a brainstorming session six months ago between Mr. Lamar and Steve Stoute, founder of Translation Consultation and Brand Imaging. "Steve came up with the idea, and I thought it was an excellent idea," Mr. Lamar said. He assigned the project to roster agency Omnicom Group's TBWA, Playa del Rey, Calif., as a way to "get a chance to see Lee Clow's ideas engaged" on brand efforts, he said. The agency presented a few ideas a couple of months ago, including one idea that incorporated footage from the original spot, but is unlikely to be included in the final execution.

A new generation
"There's a generation that's never seen that commercial, and it's one of the greatest spots of all time," said Mr. Stoute, who will consult on the project to ensure it stays culturally relevant. "We've gotten to the time where we have two athletes that culturally connect to the audience the way that Michael Jordan and Larry Bird culturally connected to the audience. That's why it makes sense with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James."

Representatives for Messrs. James and Wade could not be reached for comment. Mr. James already has pacts in place with Nike and Microsoft, among others, and was a McDonald's All-American in high school. Mr. Wade's sponsorship power grew last June after he led the Heat to the NBA championship and was named most valuable player. He has deals with PepsiCo's Gatorade, Lincoln-Mercury, T-Mobile and others.

The "Nothin' but Net" line in 1994 became the subject of a trademark battle between the Golden Arches and a then 9-year-old entrepreneur, Joanna Amron, who trademarked the phrase in 1992 for a game she had invented. The mark has been abandoned since 1999.
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