The National Basketball Association is hyping its return in nine days with a new ad featuring actress Issa Rae. The league—which will restart its season on July 30 in the so-called bubble in Orlando—released the spot today as part of a new campaign called “Whole New Game” that will run for the remainder of what will be the most unique season in the league’s history.
The ad comes from Cartwright, the Los Angeles-based, WPP-backed shop launched last month by Keith Cartwright, an alum of agencies including 72andSunny, BSSP, Wieden+Kennedy, The Martin Agency and TBWA\Chiat\Day. The shop joins an NBA agency roster that also includes Translation.
Rae, in the ad, touts the NBA’s return as “the game you love, like you’ve never seen it before—22 teams all in one place, ready to make history. This isn’t the same NBA, it’s a whole new game. But I bet we can all agree, we’re glad it’s back.”
The spot opens with Rae walking into an empty basketball court at the Staples Center in Los Angeles—not surprising given today's COVID-19 restrictions. But then, with the use of green-screen technology, she jumps straight into big game action, hanging with the players and sitting court-side with fans. The ad used highlights from games before the season was suspended on March 11. The new scenes were shot “using minimal staff to comply with social distancing guidelines,” according to an NBA spokeswoman.
The ad will be translated into more than 10 languages, including Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Spanish and Thai—a nod to the NBA’s growing international appeal. The campaign will include a total of four ads, running across TV and digital. It will be “integrated throughout the NBA Campus in Orlando and will be an integral part of the comprehensive social media activation amplifying user-generated content on @NBA platforms,” according to the league.
The season officially resumes on July 30 with a doubleheader televised on TNT featuring the Jazz vs. the Pelicans and the Clippers vs. the Lakers. All games will be played with no fans in attendance on courts at ESPN’s Wide World Sports Complex at Walt Disney World. The venue is part of the Orlando “bubble” that the NBA established in an attempt to keep players confined in a single location in an attempt to minimize COVID-19 esposer risk.
The league is regularly reporting the results of COVID-19 testing, and reported on July 20 that of the 346 players recently tested that none returned positive tests. Any player who tests positive will be isolated until cleared.