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Boone/Oakley Strives to Keep Hornets in Charlotte

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Reasons to see the Charlotte Hornets is both the challenge and the theme in Boone/Oakley's new television campaign for the NBA team.

The two principals of the Charlotte, N.C., agency want to see the franchise stay put. They left The Martin Agency with the Hornets account and opened their own shop one year ago. This year they must help their hometown keep the team.

"The environment is not good," said copywriter David Oakley. "But I want to play a part in this team's staying here."

Despite quality play, fans, who rejected a referendum to build the Hornets a new arena, are distracted by rumors that co-owners Ray Wooldridge and George Shinn will move the pro basketball operation to Louisville, Ky., St. Louis or even Norfolk, Va.

Attendance last year averaged 16,000 per game in a facility that seats 23,000. This season attendance is projected to average only 6,000.

"We're trying to remind people that we've got an incredible team that went deep into the playoffs last year," said agency creative director John Boone.

Four 30-second TV spots use Hornet coach Paul Silas and players Baron Davis, David Wesley, P.J. Brown and Bryce Drew.

Ex-WCW wrestler Ric Flair, who lives in Charlotte, appears in "Excitement" and "Style" as a motivational coach. Dressed in a spangled robe that Liberace would have envied, the silver-haired "athlete" coaxes Davis to use his signature "Whooo" sound whenever he scores.

"Ric's known for that sound," said Oakley, who hopes fans will pick up the cue and use it "like a vocal wave."

In "Fun," Silas keeps Wesley motivated with a carnival Pop-a-Shot. The ad ends with the bald player claiming his prize: a comb.

In "Great Coaching," Boone and Oakley play off the success of their 1999 campaign in which they showed Silas training a dog to make free throws. In the new spot, Wesley, Brown and Drew, watching the old commercial, mock Silas and those who believe he can really train dogs. Behind them, Silas, one eye on the camera, works with a pair of lab rats, teaching them layups and rebounds.