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James Issues Sprite Challenge

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NEW YORK A new Internet spot for Sprite from Crispin Porter + Bogusky starring LeBron James challenges consumers to come up with better music for the commercial.

James has been in several Sprite spots before, but this marks his first for the "subLYMONal" campaign, which launched last year with ads that accentuate unusual visual imagery. And the latest execution is no exception.

The clip, circulating on YouTube, Yahoo Video and MSN Video, stars a tuxedo-clad James, forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and friends running through a mansion. They wear yellow and green masks and wield stylized paintball guns. They eventually find their quarry: a man in a large "tongue suit." In slow motion, they pepper him with yellow and green paintballs, representing the tangy marriage of Sprite's lemon and lime flavors. (There's also footage of two people in bathing suits, one yellow and the other green, cannonballing into a pool.)

The spot closes on a call to action: "Can you top this music? LeBron thinks you can." Traffic is directed to Lebron23-23.com, where music tracks and mixing software are provided.

Independent AKQA in San Francisco built the site, where users are encouraged to promote their entries via personal blogs or on MySpace profiles with a widget that drives traffic back to Lebron23-23.com.

A panel including James, hip-hop musician Paul Wall and Sprite executives will select three finalists, and three different versions of the commercial will air during NBA All-Star Weekend, Feb. 17-19, with viewers asked to pick the best. The song that gets the most votes will be turned into LeBron's theme song. The music may also be played when he is introduced at NBA games.

"It's always worth looking at slowly. That's the fun of YouTube and similar sites, you can scroll through the video as slowly as you want," said Tim Roper, creative director, CP+B in Miami.

The campaign will be supported by television, radio, interactive and media merchandising, but will not have a print component. "The target audience for Sprite is a younger teen audience and they live online. They don't consume as much written media," said Susan McDermott, a representative at Coca-Cola.

The client spends more than $40 million annually on ads, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.