Because it's summer, and because Nike recently fought off Under Armour for the right to pay $300 million to put shoes on Kevin Durant's feet (but mostly because it's summer), this seems a great time to look at the sponsorship deals our own Spurs have signed over the years. Some have been covered in the past, some are new, but they all paint an interesting picture of what our guys get up to when off the court, and how they use their image in the often-self-parodying world of advertising.
Almost as a rule, athlete sponsorships are a tribute to the absurd -- absurd excess (see: Kevin Durant), absurd comedy (Patrick Chewing!) and, sometimes, simply the absurd:
With this 1991 Mr. Submarine spot, Scottie Pippen may have set the bar for awesomely bad player endorsement. It's sufficiently low budget, looks like it was done in one take, and touts the somewhat-dubiously-named 'Assorted Sub' as one of three classic options. The Weta-esque visual effects at the end complete a sandwich commercial that most certainly comes with extra cheese. We'll use the Pippen rating for the ads that unintentionally aspire to reach such levels of awesomeness.
As the NBA brand continues to grow around the world, sponsorships will play a bigger and bigger role in players' lives. And it's not just household names that get in on the fun. For journeymen and role players, there's an even smaller window to capitalize on their celebrity and position themselves well for life after their basketball careers.
Hence, it's no surprise to see some of the NBA's lesser-known guys in used-car parking lots, plugging local food joints or just selling products we would never have associated with them. Some are clever spots that play off an athlete's lack of acting talent or general obscurity, while others are so unintentionally hilarious that they make the movies that spoof them seem pedestrian in comparison.
The relatively low profile (and smaller egos) of the Spurs roleplayers doesn't exempt them from getting in on the fun. And why should it? A nice check for a day or two's work isn't something I'd say "no" to. Even if it were for Twizzlers. And I hate Twizzlers.
Since many of these ads either don't make their way out of San Antonio or out of their native countries, I'm putting the most notable ones here for us to enjoy. I'm also tossing my hat in to be these players' unofficial agent, by making a few suggestions that could help pad their bank accounts in the coming years. So guys, call me.
Let's have a party.
Follow Danny on Facebook or Twitter and you'll see he doesn't shy away from self-promotion. His public image and frequent activity over social media go against the grain of what we're used to from the 'typical Spur'. Yet, he conducts his business in a tasteful way, seems to fully understand the separation between player and brand, and I wouldn't expect to ever see a clash over his role on the team. In those ways, he's as Spur as anyone else, really.
Here's his spot for BurgerFi, which is kinda like the Blair Witch Project, only slightly less hygienic.
What do you get when you take the looks of a young Sylvester Stallone (or an old Jean Reno), the neckbeard of Andrew Luck, and the skills of an NBA 3-point shooting champ?
Bellissimo doesn't have all that many ads that I could find -- nor has he succumbed to the somewhat typecast promotion of pasta, like fellow countryman Andrea Bargnani -- but he did partake in this casual spot for Nike with Bargs a few years back:
Pippen rating: 2/5
It would help if Marco, you know, spoke in his commercials. If he chooses not to, most of my ideas center around him acting like Jean Reno from Leon. Because, why not.
Potential sponsors: Sniper rifle scopes, milk brands, Ray Bans (round-lens sunglasses only)
Credit Nike for always looking to cross over athletes from different sports. The following video does that and then some, by bringing in Boris and his love of photography to promote the French national soccer team.
Pippen rating: 2/5
Not happy with hiding behind the camera, Diaw also signed a deal with the French umbrella company, Senz. Here he is testing the durability of one of their parapluies -- on a jet ski.
Pippen rating: 4/5
Potential sponsors: Canon, Nikon, Mattress Firm
When it comes to self-promotion, the Red Mamba is the team's MVP, hands down. His Twitter antics alone helped him secure a shoe deal last year. I don't think there's a player who has a better grasp on who they are as a product than Bonner. There's an endearing transparency and self-deprecation that has made him a fan favorite during his tenure with the Spurs.
Unfortunately, not much of that comes through in this earlier work of his for Planet Fitness.
Pippen rating: 3/5
Where Bonner excels is playing off the public's perception of him. A series of spots for baby carrots (yes, baby carrots) was spot-on and a perfect pairing with the Mamba's quirky personality. All are worth watching. Here's one.
Pippen rating: N/A -- too perfect
Potential sponsors (if he hasn't tweeted at them yet): Call of Duty (with Kobe)
After a breakout season, Patty Cakes's star is definitely on the rise, which should certainly mean more opportunities to get his Aussie charm in front of the camera for any company in need of an energetic, friendly face.
You can see his acting chops on full display in this spot for charity T-shirt brand Wears My Shirt, although the ad takes a rather provocative turn towards the end.
Pippen rating: 4/5
Potential sponsors: towel companies, Party City, late-night Cinemax
In Part 2, I'll look at the team's stars. Plus Tiago.