Basketball pro shoots for Super Bowl ad fame

By Laura Petrecca, USA TODAY

On Sunday, National Basketball Association All-Star guard Dwyane Wade will try to lure Super Bowl viewers into becoming T-Mobile cellphone subscribers.

The ad extends a current series in which Wade tries to get into the “MyFaves” list of former NBA star Charles Barkley. With the “MyFaves” service, T-Mobile subscribers can select five favorite contacts — T-Mobile subscribers or not — and get unlimited calling to them.

Wade says he’s “pumped” to be on the world’s largest advertising stage: “Everyone knows that it’s one of the biggest days to be on TV.”

Last year, T-Mobile bought into the Super Bowl at the last minute and ran an existing ad featuring Barkley and Wade. This year, the wireless provider created a humorous ad just for the game, as well as a 60-second video featuring Wade and Barkley that it seeded on websites such as Google Video.

Wade’s T-Mobile connection is just one enterprise for his expanding brand name. The 26-year-old Miami Heat player, who’s been a GQ magazine cover model, also endorses Converse and Gatorade. His name is on sneakers (such as the Wade 3 from Converse), a mobile handset (the T-Mobile Sidekick 3 D-Wade Edition) and restaurants (D. Wade’s Sports Grills).

Even with his brand ambition, Wade says his immediate focus is to “concentrate on basketball and get my team on the right track.”

That’s a good thing for the Heat — winner of the 2006 NBA championship, but now struggling — and for Wade’s marketability.

The Heat’s slim chance of making this year’s playoffs, “puts a damper somewhat on (Wade’s) endorsement potential,” says Jim Andrews, editorial director at IEG Sponsorship Report. But if the Heat start winning again, Wade “can really take off.”

How Wade’s brand has expanded:

•T-Mobile ads. When T-Mobile launched its Barkley/Wade ads in 2006, it had to put Wade’s full name into the script so non-NBA fans would recognize him, says Bob Moore, chief creative officer at T-Mobile ad agency Publicis USA.

Now Wade stands on his own, Moore says. “He’s won his (NBA championship) ring already. Most people know who Dwyane Wade is now.”

•T-Mobile Sidekick. Wade took a personal interest in designing the D-Wade Sidekick. The white-and-gold mobile device is “our most popular limited-edition Sidekick,” says T-Mobile director of marketing Mike Belcher.

•Restaurants. The D. Wade’s Sports Grills in Florida will have “a lot of TVs around to watch the games, and big murals of me and other athletes,” Wade says. “Hopefully my fans — and people who aren’t my fans — will come out and enjoy the atmosphere.”

•Video game. Wade appeared on the cover packaging for EA Sports’ NBA Live 2006 game.

•DVD. Earlier this month, Warner Home Video released Undeniable: The Rise of Dwyane Wade, which chronicles Wade’s life. “The day it came out I had a signing at Wal-Mart and there were more people than I expected there,” Wade says. “It was great.”

•Gatorade ad. Wade will star in an ad for the new low-calorie Gatorade, G2, that will air during the Feb. 17 NBA All-Star Game.


Give me a flat-screen and a big recliner.

The biggest winner out of Sunday’s Super Bowl might not be the New England Patriots or New York Giants. It might be the makers of TV sets and recliners.

Consumers plan to buy 3.9 million TVs to have a new screen for Super Sunday, up more than 50% from last year’s 2.5 million, according to the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association’s 2008 Super Bowl Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. The online survey of 8,447 consumers by BIGresearch also found that game viewers plan to buy 1.8 million new pieces of furniture, up from 1.3 million last year.

Who’s laughing?

Super Bowl marketers hoping to amuse game viewers may have to do a tough end-zone dance to make both men and women laugh. That’s a key issue because the audience’s gender split is about 60% male and 40% female. It’s hard to craft humor that appeals equally to both genders, says Carol Davies, partner at marketing consultants Fletcher Knight. “Men prefer one-liner jokes with a clear punch line,” says Davies, while women prefer subtler storylines that can be hard to tell in 15 to 30 seconds.

Some Ad-itude from Wasola, Mo.

The Ad Team is asking readers to weigh in on their favorite Big Game ads by e-mailing reporter Laura Petrecca.

Cindy Weldon of Wasola, Mo., says two Super Bowl ads stand out for her. Her top pick: a 2000 ad for tech giant EDS that showed cowboys trying to herd a horde of cats. “It was a hoot,” Weldon says. (Watch it at the link above, or click here.)

Her other favorite: Anheuser-Busch’s emotional Super Bowl 2005 salute to the troops. The ad showed travelers spontaneously applauding as military personnel walked through an airport terminal. “The look on the soldiers’ faces was amazing. They were appreciated, and everybody was behind them 100%,” she says.