SBJ/June 12 - 18, 2000/Marketingsponsorship

USA Basketball players on cans

The U.S. Olympic men's basketball team may not get as much attention this year as it did when Michael Jordan donned the red, white and blue, but the Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite brand will still embrace USA Basketball by stamping full-length images of five U.S. team members on cans of Sprite beginning Aug. 15.

A corresponding instant-win contest on multipacks will offer consumers the chance to win a game of one-on-one with the player of their choice and an autographed jersey.

Grant Hill and Tim Duncan, who have national, long-term deals with Sprite, along with regional endorsers Alonzo Mourning, Allan Houston and Vin Baker, appear on individual collector cans, and all five players are pictured on the outside of multipacks. Hill and Duncan are highlighted in point-of-sale materials.

"Our basketball strategy is about the players and individual talents they show on and off the court," said Jeff Crow, marketing asset manager, NBA at Coca-Cola. "We certainly couldn't have drawn it up any better to think five of the players we have under contract would be part of the USA team."

To support the promotion, a television ad that first ran during the Olympics in 1996 will be resurrected. In the ad, from Lowe Lintas & Partners, the torsos of U.S. players are shown as the players hit their heads above a doorway. The ad will be tagged with a mention of this year's promotion.

Coca-Cola originally considered releasing 24-ounce "tall cans" with player images but chose to run the instant-win contest instead. Crow said the company still hopes to use tall cans to leverage its basketball ties in the future.

The Sprite brand is obligated to get behind USA Basketball, as its sponsorship of the governing body is structured similar to its NBA deal — with no rights fee but major media and marketing commitments. NBA Properties Inc., not coincidentally, serves as USA Basketball's marketing agent.

"When someone is using your marks and your players on packaging, that's the ultimate," said Ken Derrett, the NBA's senior vice president of marketing partnerships.

AT&T Corp. will also launch a USA Basketball promotion later this year, Derrett said.

The Sprite promotion runs for about six weeks, through the end of the Olympic Games on Oct. 1.

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