By Barry Janoff
April 20, 2015: On the court, the 2015 NBA Playoffs are all about such stars as LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose and the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.
Off the court, the Playoffs are all about celebrity star power when it comes to marketing and activations.
Among the personalities being utilized by the NBA, its media partners and marketers in ad campaigns are Anna Kendrick. Rebel Wilson, Ludacris, George Lopez, Cedric The Entertainer, D.L. Hughley, Eddie Griffin, Charlie Murphy, Imagine Dragons and Black Eye Peas.
Along with Kendrick and Wilson, a bevy of stars from Pitch Perfect 2 are seen in a series of ESPN promos that tout both the NBA playoffs and the movie, which is scheduled to hit theaters May 15.
The Pitch Perfect 2 crew also turns up in an NBA promo with Black Eyed Peas members will.i.am, Taboo and apl.de.ap, featuring the Peas single “Awesome,” which, according to the NBA, they wrote for the Playoffs to capture the energy and excitement of the action."
The extended version includes Curry, Harden, Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, Kyrie Irving, Paul Millsap, John Wall and Klay Thompson.
In three spots for Turner Sports' the NBA on TNT, Cedric The Entertainer, Griffin, Hughley, Lopez and Murphy — currently appearing together in The Black and Brown Comedy Get Down Tour, sit in the stands of a local gym and discuss NBA stars of past and present as well as the use of trash-talking.
In "Old Man Game," Cedric talks about his old school style of playing hoops, like Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies. "I back 'em down in the paint. I use my weight. I wear my socks real high — it's the Old Man Game."
In "Any Era," the group debates which current player could survive in other decades and come up with Harden, Curry, LeBron and 39-year-old Duncan, who "actually did play in every era. He was a rookie when Bill Russell retired," they observe.
"Catch Phrase" finds the guys talking about classic hoops quotes, such as long-time broadcaster Marv Albert's "Yes!!!" Murphy comes up with his own: "You getting a lot of menu to miss that shot!"
NBA on TNT also incorporates Imagine Dragons into the mix, with an NBA Playoffs spot interspersing shots of them performing live "I'm So Sorry" with action shots from Playoff teams.
The NBA is far from lacking in Playoff promo spots with its own stars.
"All-Stars Talk Playoffs" puts the players up front talking about the post-season, including Al Horford, Curry, Thompson, Damian Lillard and LeBron, who offers,"The Playoffs breaks kids, for sure. The Playoffs is no joke."
The league also touts each of the Conference match-ups, with "Ramp Up To The Playoffs Eastern Conference" and "Ramp Up To The Playoffs Western Conference."
Among NBA marketing partners, Kia in "Speech" envisions Blake Griffin as an Alexander the Great-type warrior leading his troops into battle not on horseback but it his Optima; and continues the "Special Place" spit with LeBron and his K900.
BBVA Compass touts its new American Express card in an anthem spot that features company spokesman Kevin Durant and James Harden.
State Farm airs the extended commercial and shorter versions in its "National Bureau of Assists" effort with Curry, Lillard, Chris Paul, the WNBA's Sue Bird and NBA legend John Stockton.
Kaiser Permanente has two spots with Curry under the banner, "Offense Is the Best Defense," which combines blends Curry's athletic performance with individuals and community members "taking small steps to be more proactive about their health."
The partnership, which began in January when the company signed on as the NBA’s first health care partner, also aligns the NBA FIT campaign, which encourages fans to "Be Active, Eat Healthy, Play Together," with Kaiser Permanente's "Thrive" campaign.
“The ‘Offense is the Best Defense’ ad campaign is a great, creative way to reach community members with an important message: that making good choices today is the best way to stay healthy in the long run,” Christine Paige, svp-marketing and digital services for Kaiser Permanente, said in a statement.
According to Paige, “We are excited about this aspect of our partnership with the NBA, and are hopeful that it will make a great impact in the communities we serve.”
Over the past several years, Kaiser Permanente and Curry's Golden State Warriors have worked together on a variety of community and health-based initiatives, which now also involves Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Harman International's JBL, which this season signed a multi-year deal to become the NBA's official headphone, speaker and audio partner, has signed Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers as a "brand ambassador," the first player signedsince the deal was signed.
As he wrote on his Facebook page, Lillard jump-started the alliance with his teammates. "Went by the practice facility last night to deliver some custom #RipCity colored speakers and headphones from my new partners at JBL for my teammates, coaches, trainers and medical staff. Just a small playoff gift for the squad before we get started on our playoff journey. Time to chase that ring!"
NBA playoff teams are all-in with ad campaigns touting ticket sales and post-season promotions. Among them:
• The San Antonios Spurs created a Duran Duran cover band, Spuran Spuran, which stars Matt Bonner, Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, Kawhi Leonard and The Coyote mascot in a video, "Spurs by Spuran Spuran."
• The Atlanta Hawks are telling fans "Ten Things you Need To Know About Coming To Hawks Playoff Games," such as "wear red, take MARTA and don't take unneeded items to the game (or they might new confiscated by security). The Hawks also will bring in rap star/actor (Furious 7) Ludacris to DJ and perform during halftime of Game 2 Wednesday night (April 22) of their first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets.
• The Golden State Warriors have been holding Scavenger Hunt offering tickets to its playoff games, autographed times and other goodies via e-mail, social media, apps.
• The Boston Celtics have unveiled "Playoff Psych Up," using former team greats to inspire current players in their post-season quest. "Remember, your name is on the back of your uniform but Celtics will always be on the front," says former and coach Tommy Heinsohn.
• The Cleveland Cavaliers players took time in a spot, "Thank You To Fans," to thank their fans for supporting them during the past season and into the playoffs, led by LeBron, Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith.
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