Martin Plays B-Ball for Laughs

Charlotte Hornets Got Game, Comic Timing and Punch Lines
ATLANTA–Four humorous television spots for the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte (N.C.) Hornets tip off this week. The series promotes the team’s 1999-2000 season, which begins Tuesday.
The campaign from The Martin Agency highlights the distinctive athletic strengths of individual players in both ironic and exaggerated ways.
One spot, labeled “Jump,” features Ricky Davis, so well known for his leaping ability that last year he commanded two positions on ESPN’s top 10 slam dunks of the year.
In the ad, a stymied fire chief standing below a treed cat calls headquarters, urgently demanding, “Bring me a 21 Davis!” The uniformed player, complete with number 21 on his back, is delivered, hauled under the arm of a fireman like a ladder. “Whassup, Cap?” he asks, before leaping up and off the screen toward the sound of a yowling cat. The picture goes to black with the tagline, “This guy can jump.”
“Kung Fu” is a sly nod to the classic 1970s David Carradine television series it imitates. The spot shows star player Eddie Jones–whose calling card is his quickness–easily snatching a black pebble from the hand of an increasingly agitated martial arts master. “This guy is quick,” states the tag.
“Trash Talk” features Hornet players Derrick Coleman and Anthony Mason literally talking trash. “Coffee grinds . . . rotten tomatoes . . . corn dog sticks . . . potato peels . . . eggshells . . . pigeon bones,” they taunt each other before exploding into laughter.
The final spot shows Hornets coach Paul Silas earnestly offering pointers to an unseen player. The player is ultimately revealed to be Zeke, the basketball-playing dog that has appeared on David Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks and America’s Funniest Home Videos.
“When we saw that dog on Letterman’s anniversary special, dunking a basketball, we said, ‘We’ve got to do something with this.’ ” said Martin art director John Boone.
“We felt like people were tired of seeing action footage of the players,” said copywriter David Oakley. “They can see that stuff on the 11 o’clock news. If [the ads] make people laugh, then we’ve achieved our goal.”
Boone and Oakley created the ads at the Richmond, Va., agency’s satellite office in Charlotte. Jeremy Davids is the account supervisor on the business. The spots were directed by Bennett Miller.