Product Placement Stuffed at the Rim in 2017 NBA All-Star Dunk Contest

It’s true what Gary Vaynerchuk said. Marketers ruin everything.

This is why the strategy of empathy is so important. Innovative methods of market exposure depreciate in value as soon as they are created. The goal in native marketing is to integrate brands into the platform without compromising the experience. Blatant product placement is just like a pop-up ad today. It’s abrupt and noisy. When the product becomes bigger than the experience, the consumer’s experience is ruined. This could annoy the consumer and ultimately have a net negative impact on the sponsor’s reputation.

The first round of the NBA All-Star Dunk Contest was terrible. At one time, the dunk contest was bigger than the all-star game itself. It was a grand spectacle for basketball fans. An event where fans could appreciate the flash of the game with no strings attached. Now? Now it’s the longest commercial on TV.

The first round of the dunk contest included a SnapChatting DJ Khaled and a drone powered by Intel … IN the dunks. If you took away the DJ and the robot, the dunks were boringly plain. As someone who tuned in expecting athletic, acrobatic dunking in the dunk contest, I did not appreciate the branded props because it took away required athletic innovation.

I get it. Teenaged to young adult male demographic who have snapchat and are intrigued by tech watched the dunk contest tonight. I’m sure the participating players got paid well (kudos to the players’ agents), but the products became bigger than the dunk. It took away from the excitement and experience of the dunk contest. Granted, the quality of the dunk contest has deteriorated in recent years already. But that’s due to plateaued innovation of dunkers. Add the (basically) first-round commercial on top of that … it’s unwatchable. The players and the sponsors won tonight, but the basketball fans were shafted. In the long run, that’s not good for anyone. Great for short-term. Bad for long-term. DJ Khaled got his content (DeAndre Jordan probably got a boost, too), Intel got to demo their drone, but the basketball fans were expecting to see innovative dunks and got a 25-minute live ad that they couldn’t skip.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be native marketing or product placement in the dunk contest. It’s a great platform. I’m saying the NBA should be more considerate of the basketball fans and respect the game more. Feature products that contribute to young talent development, athletic performance optimization, or in-game innovation. Aspiring basketball players will want to dunk like the contest participants, or more likely, dunk to one-up the dunks on TV. Why not reach out to brands of products/services that the dunk contestants use to jump as high as they do, or something of that nature. Something that will make viewers want to look up and use the next day. How about we create a strategy where everyone wins. The product. The player. And the FANS!