- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2008

In October, Adidas announced a new advertising campaign involving six of the NBA’s top stars. Dubbed “Basketball as a Brotherhood,” the campaign eschewed the idea of promoting products around a single player.

With two of the campaign’s stars — Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas and Rockets forward Tracy McGrady — missing big chunks of time with injuries, Adidas is looking pretty smart, if a bit unlucky.

“When you take that approach, it doesn’t affect you as much as when you put one guy out there and hope he sells a shoe for you,” said Travis Gonzolez, Adidas’ head of global basketball public relations. “When you have an injury, you still have the other four or five guys.”

Indeed, Adidas still has a solid roster left.

Spurs center Tim Duncan is a perennial MVP candidate coming off of a championship season. Chauncey Billups is an important player for the Pistons, who annually contend for the Eastern Conference title. Magic center Dwight Howard leads the league in rebounds. And then there is Kevin Garnett, who has led the Celtics to the NBA’s best record and was the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game.

Adidas’ basketball campaign centers around “signature” shoes for all six players.

It differs than that of Nike, which is best known for a singular campaign around the Cavaliers’ LeBron James. The James campaign is viewed as the most successful among NBA advertisers, but a similar campaign by Converse involving Heat guard Dwyane Wade is perceived as less successful because Wade has battled a shoulder injury over the past year.

“There’s always that risk in devoting all your resources in one guy,” said Matt Delzell, senior client manager for Davie Brown Talent, which matches athletes with potential endorsers. “[Adidas] looks smart. … They didn’t put all their eggs in one basket.”

Agents and advertising experts said there is always an inherent risk in partnering with athletes because campaigns are usually formulated as many as 18 months before they appear. In that span of time, players can become injured or unproductive or be traded to smaller market teams.

But sometimes things can also work out for the good. Consider that when Adidas was formulating its “Basketball is a Brotherhood” campaign, Garnett was still in Minnesota playing for a team with scant visibility or championship hopes.

“He was a guy that some people had started to write off in Minnesota,” Gonzolez said. “KG going to Boston raised his profile, which raised the profile of the campaign.”

Adidas executives also were relieved when Billups re-signed this past offseason with the big market Pistons instead of a smaller market like Milwaukee as had been rumored.

Of course, Adidas still has been hurt by not having Arenas or McGrady on the court for 82 games this season. Less on-court visibility has meant less exposure for the shoes. Arenas admitted as much earlier this year shortly after his latest “Gil Zero” shoe began selling in November.

“I’m trying to figure out how we’re going to promote them when I’m not playing,” Arenas wrote in his blog. “The problem in having one of my teammates or somebody else debut them on the court is that no one wears low tops. That’s the hard part.”

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