Ad Age Digital DigitalNext MediaWorks CHICAGO-The National Basketball Association could just be headed toward a dream Finals matchup between its two most marketable stars, one that will result in massive buzz, bigger TV ratings — and a nightmare for two of its biggest sponsors, Adidas and Gatorade.
The problem for NBA’s official merchandise and uniform supplier, Adidas, and its official sports beverage, Pepsi’s Gatorade, is that Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and Cleveland Cavaliers stalwart LeBron James are the two most prominent endorsers of their archrivals, Nike and Coca-Cola’s Glaceau, neither of which paid nearly as much to the NBA for the privilege of sponsoring the league and its playoffs.
In their giddiness, neither Glaceau nor Nike has bothered to wait for the matchup to materialise to trumpet their stars — and activate some brand messaging. Mr. James’ Cavaliers still need to vanquish the Orlando Magic (led by Adidas endorser Dwight Howard), and Mr. Bryant’s Lakers, which barely beat the injury-riddled Houston Rockets in the second round, still need to take out the Denver Nuggets.
But that hasn’t stopped Glaceau’s Vitaminwater from airing a spot with the two stars’ partisans bickering over which player is superior and inviting viewers to follow the “Great Debate” on Facebook.
Not to be outdone, Nike’s latest ad features Muppet-like likenesses of the two, with Mr. Bryant’s puppet irritating Mr. James’ by constantly invoking his three championship rings. (Mr. James has yet to win an NBA title
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