Embrace the Placement

Posted on March 8, 2011


I’m an unabashed fan of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Over the years critics have pronounced the contest dead saying there are no new dunks to be attempted. Then creative athletes like Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin find ways to bring it back. 

Yep, I said it: Blake Griffin. I think his winning dunk in this year’s contest, where he jumped OVER a Kia Optima sedan to dunk an alley-oop pass thrown by a teammate from inside the sun roof was awesome.

Many critics don’t agree. The dunk has been panned for two reasons; he jumped over the hood of the car not the passenger area and the blatant product placement since the Optima happens to be an official NBA sponsor. 

As far as jumping over the hood I’d like to see anyone who complained give it a shot.  

The second issue is more interesting. Kia immediately turned the dunk into a commercial which had to be pre-planned. No car company is that nimble. That jump-started the conspiracy theorists who say that the victory was pre-ordained because the car was from a major sponsor and Griffin is the new mainstream friendly  poster boy for the league.

Who cares? Stop ruining the magic of everything. I choose to believe if Griffin hadn’t made the contest finals on his own the car dunk wouldn’t have happened. But he did… so it did. If that’s not true, I don’t much care. Stop being such a buzz kill.

The bigger lesson is consumer acceptance of product tie-ins. There was a time programming and sales had a brick wall between them to preserve the sanctity of the content. No doubt we still need unbiased news reporting but when it comes to the slam dunk content or an entertainment-based radio show those days are gone.

What’s important now is finding creative ways to embrace sponsors like Griffin did. That’s where you come in. When sales comes knocking with a product tie-in do your best to work with them and find a creative solution that makes your show better and helps the client meet their goals.

And if your stuck for ideas, let me know. Maybe I can help.