Nike’s Hails LeBron James & NBA Sponsors Go Digital


Nike’s ‘The Ring Maker’ campaign: a cynical piece of premeditated marketing or a clever low latency sports event real time response?


You decide!


The very first commercial to air in the ad break immediately following the end of the final game of the 2012 NBA playoffs was a new Nike Basketball spot celebrating the determination and perseverance superstar brand ambassador LeBron James has shown to finally clinch an NBA championship.


The spot, which debuted immediately following James’ Miami Heat victory, revolves around the idea that ‘destiny is earned, not given’. The creative follows his journey from his 2003 rookie season to his first title in 2012 – chronicling the memorable career moments that fuelled and motivated him.


The ad is told through a jeweller who begins working on a (his) championship ring when LeBron is a youngster and shows the craftsman making his ring throughout his career highs and lows. He finishes making the ring just in time to deliver it to him for his first championship.


The spot launched globally on network TV after Miami’s winning game and continues to run via digital and social media channels.


This immediate celebratory homage to the man who might well be Nike’s number one front man, follows the sports brand’s reworking of its ‘Epic’ campaign for this year’s NBA Playoffs.


While ‘Epic’, which was originally developed in tandem with agency R/GA for the 2011 playoffs, included traditional TV and print ads, is essentially a social media initiative.



Supporting above-the-line movie poster style creative focused on some of Nike’s biggest basketball names facing off against one another: such as Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Kevin Durant and LeBron James himself


But this playoff work primarily revolved around Nike’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. In effect it was an NBA playoffs Twitter ranking tool hosted on the Nike Basketball website. It basically measured the topical currency of players.


Using data visualization (in the form of a tool called Epic), it simply measured the number of tweets per hour for each playoff player and team, and then placed those with the most tweets at the top of the ranking grid map.


There is also a direct Nike product element too, with links from each player to the shoes they were wearing during the playoff games. This included an option to ‘like’ via Facebook or click through to some of the ‘sneakers’ to purchase.


During the NBA Playoffs and finals, the live tweet tabulations moved the players around the grid.




The Epic site was live, topical, fun and functional, as well as being simple to navigate.


It also seems to understand the media direction with which the NBA consumer is moving. The league’s data shows more and more fans engaging with the league digitally.


Indeed, during the final’s NBA Senior VP For Global Marketing Mark Tatum said there had been a 74% annual increase in video downloads from NBA sites in the last 12 months).


‘Sponsors are looking for more creativity in digital and social media and in finding ways to leverage their rights in those places,’ comments Tatum.


Accordingly, nearly every activation initiative had a digital tie. Nike is just one of many brand’s contributing to this marked increase in 2012 digital work. This was particularly evident when the volume of sponsor activity rose during the playoffs and finals.


For example, sponsor Kia used digital to ensure the NBA became the first of the Big Five US sports leagues to give fans a voice in MVP voting. The auto brand’s sweepstakes campaign used TV and courtside signage to drive consumers onto its digital platform where they could register their MVP vote and gain a chance to win a Kia Sorento and a trip to the NBA Finals to take in a game with Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


Along with the MVP, Kia also offered consumers a chance to vote for the league’s other performance awards: Rookie Of The Year, Sixth Man, Most Improved Player, Best Defensive Player. Furthermore, the winners of these awards were able to give Kia Sorentos to their own favourite charities.


Right Guard, which has a long standing official association with the NBA, also ran a digitally-led campaign in the form of a Facebook-led promotion called ‘How Do You Keep Your Cool?’


Corporate patron Right Guard encouraged users to upload their own examples of ‘coolness’ under pressure by enticing them with the chance of winning tickets to the NBA Finals.


Other playoffs and finals related activity from the brand included ‘Official Deodorant of the NBA’ stickers placed on tens of millions of product packages in support of its Total Defense 5 sub-brand.


The online Total Defense 5 MVP initiative enabled users to create their own avatar, collect clues on NBA.com in order to complete missions throughout the site and collect points for virtual goods.


A branded video player on NBA.com and social media also offered an exclusive look at the Total Defense 5 ‘Play of the Night’.


The NBA’s official deodorant brand was also presenting sponsor for TNT’s ‘40 Days in 40 Nights’ postseason NBA package, following its 2011 initiative when it teamed up with Turner for a ‘Win Or Go Home Sweepstakes’ which offered a trip to the 2011 All-Star Game.


To continue its basketball TV collaborative thread, Right Guard (a US Basketball team partner) also acted as the official presenting sponsor of the NBA TV’s ‘Dream Team’ documentary – which premiered on 13 June.


This 90-minute programme looked back at the 1992 US Olympic ‘Dream Team’ – possibly the best basketball side ever assembled (with stars including Charles Barkley, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen and the greatest of them all Michael Jordan.



Other digital sponsor initiatives included American Express backing TNT’s live streaming of playoff games and both adidas and wireless sponsor Sprint sponsored an online playoff brackets game on NBA.com.


While official technology partner Cisco returned as the presenting sponsor of the NBA’s ‘Amazing Is’ digital campaign, which enabled fans to create mashups from 100 historical playoff moments and then share them on Facebook and Twitter.


Speaking of Nike Basketball, take a peak at Jus Fly amazing gymnastic dunk at LA Live. Part of the #GameOnWorld initiative, the dunk fronts the marketing campaign for the brand’s new Nike Hyperdunk+ shoe – which provides instant feedback to your smartphone about about your vertical reach, quickness and hustle. It is also the product around which July’s interactive Nike+ Basketball Dunk Showcase online competition (follow @nikebasketball on Twitter for details).





Nike Epic Facebook Page


Nike Epic Website


Nike Basketball


NBA Website


NBA & Kia – Race To The MVP


Right Guard Website


Right Guard Facebook


American Express & TNT NBA Live Stream


Adidas & Sprint & NBA Playoff Brackets


NBA & Cisco – Amazing Is


Cisco NBA Blog

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