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December 02, 1991 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 1991-12-02

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, December 2, 1991 - Page 11

NBA ac
*by David Schechter
Daily Basketball Writer
. Baseball on TV just doesn't cut it. Too much swing-
ing and missing.
What about a sport that packs a real punch like
football or hockey? Exciting, but you can't see your fa-
vorite player's face under a fiberglass helmet.
Basketball is the game perfectly suited for the new
global television community. It's action without dis-
traction. Power forwards don't sit around like center
fielders waiting for the ball - they move to it. And
*why bother watching Joe Montana's face mask when
the NBA offers Michael Jordan's tongue, Charles
Barkley's sneer, and Isiah Thomas' smile?
The NBA seems to be powered by jet-fighter fuel. It
has to be. It is a game in constant motion. A game of
high-scoring and nail-biting intensity. It is a game that
holds in its ranks some of the world's finest athletes.
And a game that boasts six of the top 10 most recog-
nizable athletes in the world. It seems only natural
that in this age of sound bytes and music television,
*professional basketball is the entertainment industry's
perfect partner.
The NBA is a finely tuned entertainment package
whose pace is perfectly suited for a decade of flash and
substance. Behind every player in the league, there is an
entire support staff helping to keep the wheels of fame
spinning. As you might expect, the superstars get a lit-
tie more help than, say, Paul Mokeski. But still, there
are people and organizations dedicated to the image-
making of the league and its most lauded players.
Basketball players are no longer just big bodies that
*plug up the lane. They are sleek, smooth, and smart on
the floor. Somewhere between Dr. J and the Isiah
Thomas generation, a metamorphosis occurred. Basket-
ball players became entertainers. Success is not only
limited to the court anymore. The sport's fast pace and
forobatic grace awe fans and non-fans alike. And so the
appeal of a basketball star is far reaching. The largest
endorsement deals now go to basketball players, be-
cause they are so recognizable. In fact, the game has
ben elevated to such a level that certain players can't
*iven eat at McDonald's.
"Do you think a lot of people would recognize
Will Clark if he was walking down the street?" said
.Dpn Sperling, executive producer of NBA Entertain-
ment. "Think about it, he's one of the better players in
baseball. God forbid if Michael or Earvin or Isiah walk
down the street - forget it."
Sperling and NBA Entertainment comprise an often
unsung appendage of the NBA marketing machine. In
many ways they are responsible for crafting the image
of the league and its players while spreading the gospel
of pro basketball around this country and the world.
How do they do it?
As the name implies, NBA Entertainment brings
Qut the best in basketball entertainment. With high-
tech effects, fast-paced editing, and hip music, they
package the league into quality programming. The
flow and style of professional basketball lends itself
t0 the pace and rhythm of a music video. Bumping in the
lane, slam dunks and dazzling passes to music replace
the singing and dancing of MTV. The chief aim of
NBAE is to promote the league. They do it by produc-
*ig large-scale projects in a low-profile way.
The average fan sees dozens of pieces produced by
NBAE during the course of a season, but they probably
don't know NBAE is involved. And that's the way
NBA Entertainment likes it. The idea behind the
anonymity is that the credit should go to the players
and the players only.
Here's just a sampling of what NBAE puts to-
gether:
Six to eight home videos a year. These include
Michael Jordan's Playground and Come Fly With Me,
both featuring Jordan, a video following the progress
of that year's championship team, and several others.
Television specials like "SI for Kids" and the
"Stay in School Jam" which aired on NBC, Nick-
elodeon and TNT during All-Star Weekend.
Commercials for NBA Authentics and Skybox
basketball cards, as well as public-service announce-
ments about child abuse and NBA Fantastic commer-
cials.
* 85 half-time features that air on NBC and TNT.

i.
olion0

it's

big

>usiness
basketball into big business. Converse is at it to, and
they're proud to say that they own the title of the offi-
cial shoes of the NBA. According to Bill Tucker, vice
president in charge of marketing at Converse, there is
one big reason for his companies alliance with the
league.
"The NBA is perhaps the premiere sports marketing
organization in the world," Tucker said. "They know
exactly what people want, and they've delivered a su-
perior entertainment product. They are very forward
thinking, and leading edge marketers."
Converse plans to utilize fully their official shoe
status in the coming years and months because of the
potential benefits that exist. They will place emphasis
on the long-running relationship that Converse has
with the NBA. After all, Converse feels that since it
invented the original basketball shoe, the Chuck Tay-
lors, people should automatically relate Converse
shoes with professional basketball.
To stake a prominent spot in the highly competitive
athletic shoe industry, the company has taken an ag-
gressive tone in their marketing. Converse ads follow
the concept that "It's what's inside that counts." By
signing on such notable winners as Magic Johnson,
Larry Bird and Bill Laimbeer, Converse hopes to prove
that slogan true.
"The type of people who wear our products really
exemplify the whole notion of - it's what's inside
them that has made them superstars. And that's really
who we are," Tucker said.
Indirectly, by promoting the strengths of their en-
dorsees, companies like Nike and Converse also pro-
mote the NBA.
"I think our whole 'Just Do It' philosophy really
ties in a lot with the excitement in the NBA," Gable
said.
Tucker points out that it's a great relationship be-
cause not only do the shoe companies and the NBA ben-
efit, but more importantly - the fans do too. The
viewer naturally wants more and tunes in to see Jordan
or Bird's acrobatics live on NBC. And of course, they
not only see Jordan and Bird, but Isiah, Barkley and a
myriad of players from around the league.
The NBA is a very '90s organization, with style all
its own and a great entertainment value. The parallels
have been drawn between the league and MTV.
Through different mediums they work towards a
common goal. MTV's programming is geared at much
the same level and speed as the NBA - they are both
fast, sleek, and action-oriented. The connection be-
tween the two naturally must overlap. And it does.
MTV took an interest in the league three years ago
when it began broadcasting from NBA playoff games.
It just seemed like the right thing to do.
"We originally did it a few years ago. It's a young
company where a lot of people are into basketball. The
NBA has certainly turned its focus to young exciting
people. It's right up our alley," said Mitchell Kozu-
chowski, who produced several MTV spots, featuring
Downtown Julie Brown, in Detroit this season.
Fast dancing and fast sports make great music tele-
vision.
"We got very good response to our coverage. We
got great participation from the players, with the Pis-
tons being one of the most cooperative teams," Kozu-
chowski said. MTV took advantage of the allure of the
NBA, and the favor was returned as the NBA's fast-
paced image was carried to yet more homes.
Julie Brown, with her pop savvy, has been converted
into a Pistons groupie over the years because basketball
is so fun to watch. The union of the two was noted in
the National last year, "If the Pistons were a rock band
instead of a basketball team, MTV's Downtown Julie
Brown would be their backup vocalist."
It seems fitting that she wouldn't sing lead.
Whereas MTV began a new movement in television,
the NBA has done something arguably bigger. It has
spurred the development of a whole concept in sports
entertainment. While the players concentrate on play-
ing well, organizations like NBA Entertainment, Nike,
and even MTV actively promote the league. Each group
reaps different benefits, from selling more shoes to in-
creasing viewership. The NBA has the prettiest jump
shot around, and big business, big stars and big fans all
benefit every time that shot falls.

Atlanta guard Rumeal Robinson is one of the players who has benefitted from the NBA's marketing strategy.

One-hour, edited and reproduced versions of NBA
games that are distributed to 77 countries around the
world.
In 1982, NBA Entertainment set out to make bas-
ketball faces recognizable worldwide. In the early
eighties, with a meager five-member staff, they pro-
duced a handful of promotional spots and a few half-
time features for cable broadcasts. Now their handfuls
are overflowing. In July, with a growing 80-member
staff, NBAE will move to a brand new multi-million
dollar facility in New Jersey equipped with a studio,
editing suites and executive offices.
"Slowly over the years we saw the sport change, we
saw it gain popularity, and we saw the emergence of
great personalities like Bird, Magic, Jordan, Barkley
and Isiah," Sterling said. NBAE played a growing part
in the coming out of the new-look league.
The most remarkable achievement of NBAE may be
its half-hour show called "Inside Stuff." Designed as a
segue into the NBA on NBC, "Stuff" is hosted by
Ahmad Rashad and is a relaxed and fun look at the
league. "Stuff" takes an MTV approach to the NBA,
combining action and rhythm to give a music video feel.
Every week the show includes features on different
players (not just the superstars) in an attempt to fa-
miliarize fans, and potential fans, with the league in a
more personal way.
The support the show receives from NBC is almost
unheard of.
It may be the first television show to ever receive a
guaranteed 36-week run on national television. "Before
I came here, I worked at NBC," NBA publicist Mary
Negoy said, "and I know that nothing gets a 36-week
commitment. I could get Robert DeNiro to star in a
television series and even that would not get a 36-week
commitment.".
And so the flash and appeal of this particular

NBAE production has NBC smiling. After doling out
600 million dollars for the right to cover NBA games,
the network is now benefiting from NBAE's total
commitment to covering the sport.
"NBA Entertainment is a unique situation, where
they have cameramen and editors exclusively dedicated
to the NBA. As a network with many interests we
can't do that," said Ed Markey, director of sports in-
formation at NBC. Naturally, if NBAE is producing a
show that perpetuates the popularity of the league,
something NBC has vested interested in, then the
"Inside Stuff" agreement means good business for
both sides.
And what would the NBA be without shoes - or
more importantly shoe commercials?
The Nike shoe company takes basketball stardom to
another level. Nike has been a key factor in the popu-
larity of the league and its sleek facade. They place bas-
ketball stars on the highest plateau of excellence and
achievement, with meticulously produced commercials
that follow storylines and use complex graphics and
effects.
"Nike's whole philosophy is to work with the best
athletes in any sport. I think that our work with
Michael Jordan is a good example of how we work
with the best there is and how we market them in a way
that is extremely positive," Nike spokesperson
Melinda Gabel said.
The nature of the Nike ad is innovative, fresh, and
exciting. Players aren't just players - they become
personalities. There's a feeling of comraderie while a
superstar talks to you face to face. "Welcome to Mr.
Robinson's neighborhood." Nike's campaigns, like
"Inside Stuff," personalize players like David Robin-
son, because you see superstars in different settings
than you would during a game.
Nike isn't the only shoe company out there making

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Rose Bowl Tickets
Applications for tickets to the 1992 Rose Bowl between Michigan and
Washington will be accepted tomorrow and Wednesday from 8 a.m.-4:30
p.m. at Yost Ice Arena. Tickets are $46 each.
Students are allowed one ticket for themselves and one for a spouse, if
applicable. Faculty and staff are allotted one ticket for themselves and one
for each immediate family member. Valid identification must be presented
both at Yost and when the tickets are picked up in Pasadena.
Applications from the general public must be made through the Athletic
Department by Dec. 6. Those applications will be entered into a lottery
system to determine who receives any available tickets.

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'Twas the monthi before Christmas
at the university of !Micigan.
students were excited about the
thought of returning home again.
People were studying
as finas drew near.
t little to their knowedge,

I

IFOR...WEKVFMINO~fLIDAYS

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