When Sports PR Goes Too Far

First off let me start by saying sports media relations or public relations is not at all like everyday PR. You can get away with more in the arena of sports PR. But when a sports PR stunt manipulates one of the coolest exhibition sporting events of all time, I have to say enough is enough.

I don’t know if anyone watched the 2009 NBA All-Star Saturday last night or more specifically the Sprite Slam Dunk contest, but the fix was in. Normally the contest features eight players and there are three rounds. During last night’s competition, there were only four players: Rudy Fernandez, Dwight Howard, Nate Robinson and J.R. Smith. It was evident that during the first round, the judges already knew to give Robinson (winner three years ago), and Howard (last years winner), high scores so that the final would pair both former champs up against each other. Fernandez’s dunk in the first round was far better than Robinsons, and Fernandez was robbed of a chance to go to the finals. One blog said this about last night’s contest, “In what was one of the worst judged contests I have ever seen, Rudy received the lowest scores for both of his dunks, when he should have been among the leaders.”

During last years dunk contest, Howard wore a Superman’s cape while performing his final dunk. He did it again this year, and this is where I think PR robbed fans of a true champion. Right before the final round, Robinson went into the locker room and moments later came out in an all green uniform. The announcers called it “Superman’s Kryptonite”, so obviously it was a staged publicity stunt. Why would Robinson have a green uniform made for the finals against Howard when he didn’t know he was going to be in the finals? The answer is everyone involved in the dunk contest knew that they would be there. So if the NBA and Sprite just wanted those two in the contest, then why did they let the other two no-names to compete at all?
If it were my decision, I would have just let Robinson and Howard compete so the NBA wouldn’t have to rig the contest. I know it’s about money and it always will be, but the NBA made a bad decision last night. Don’t get me wrong, Robinson and Howard were really entertaining and they had some amazing dunks, but no one likes the wool pulled over their eyes.

So here is my proposal for the 2010 NBA Slam Dunk Contest; make it LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant and the whole world will watch. People will compare it to Michael Jordan vs. Dominique Wilkins in the 1987-88slam dunk contests.

This way everyone is a winner. The NBA, sponsors and the network will benefit from the amount of viewers and the fans will win because the two best basketball players on the planet would be duking it out in the dunk contest. It’s a win-win situation, and isn’t that the essence of public relations?

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3 Responses to When Sports PR Goes Too Far

  1. kbergeron44 says:

    I agree with you that the NBA slam dunk contest definitely needs a makeover, but is taking the two “best” dunkers the answer? Before this Saturday’s contest I had no idea that Rudy Fernandez (who totally got robbed) was that good at dunking. My point being, that if the NBA is to take two superstars who are perceived as the best dunkers and pit them against each other then the fans will miss out on seeing some phenomenal dunks from the lesser named players who in turn would miss the notoriety that comes from competing in the contest. My suggestion? How about the NBA embrace the Web 2.0 era that has already had influence on the All Star weekend in the form of online campaigning by the players. Have slam dunk contest hopefuls put up a Youtube video of what to expect from them in the contest and then let people decide. This way lesser named players have a chance at entering the competition against some of the bigger named players like Lebron James (2010 slam dunk contest can’t come soon enough!).

  2. mjcavaleri says:

    I don’t know, Max. I feel that Rudy Fernandez shot himself in the foot with the dunk that took extra time to complete. I feel no one warranted going to the second round except for Dwight Howard (although he probably should have saved his dunk involving the 12-foot rim for later.)

    I also am somewhat on fence of the contest being rigged. I know for a fact that the players must submit to the league what their props will be, so it is entirely possible that the announcers and judges just knew of the props. They might have had no idea what each player would do with the props.

    I’m fairly positive as well that the fan voting chooses the winner in the final round through text messaging for sure and maybe online voting (I am unsure of the online voting.)

  3. lindsaylynch says:

    I saw the Slam Dunk contest, but obviously I didn’t watch it as intently as you did. Now that you say that I was getting upset watching it when others did better and got worse scores. I am shocked that it was all a PR scam. I guess in the end I was taken advantage of and didn’t catch onto it!!

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