Hollywood Embraces the NBA Finals to Sell Its Movies

A.J. Katz wrote recently at Adweek about how much it cost companies to advertise during the NBA Finals, a series that featured LeBron James proving once more that he’s the greatest player the league has ever seen if you completely forget that Michael Jordan existed.

Ratings for the games were generally good, averaging roughly what they have in recent years, though the Championship series dropped toward the end as it became clear the Golden State Warriors were going to finish off the Cleveland Cavaliers in undramatic fashion.

While there were, of course, a wide variety of brands and industries that sought to generate interest – taking advantage of the fact that to date live sports are still largely watched live – Hollywood in particular jumped up to advertise during the games. Not only did they run commercials but in most every case the studios created unique spots that featured well-known players interacting with talent from the movies in fun and attention-getting ways.

The Equalizer 2

Sony created a mini-campaign that aired throughout the series, the most ambitious of the advertising efforts collected here.

It kicked off with a spot featuring star Denzel Washington explaining to director Anton Fuqua how he doesn’t do sequels, something that’s actually true. Instead, he suggests, the studio should audition NBA stars to take on his role.

That lead to a whole series of commercials featuring different NBA players like Dwight Howard, Lonzo Ball, Paul George and others, including one with various players offering their own catchphrase suggestions. After all that the campaign finishes off with Washington agreeing everyone else is terrible and he’s in for the movie.

Night School

The game broadcast afforded Universal an opportunity to kick off the paid TV campaign for the Kevin Hart/Tiffany Haddish comedy, where she plays the night school (natch) teacher whose class he attends so he can earn his GED and get a better job.

The spot features Hart in a classroom having one of those nightmare moments where he realizes he’s wholly unprepared for a test she’s about to administer. Showing up all around him are Karl Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge and Devin Booker, all of whom are there just to make Hart feel worse about his circumstances.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

A commercial featuring Kyle Lowry was released back in April, well before the playoffs started, but it was run during the series and was meant to promote that ahead of time. In the spot, Lowry enters a dark and empty basketball court as he talks about things that are hidden in the shadow. Him getting some practice shots in are intercut with footage from the film of a dinosaur emerging from a tunnel with a loud roar.

Hotel Artemis

In the movie-branded spot, a wounded Marcellus Wiley is joined in an elevator by Dave Bautista, who in the movie plays an orderly at the hotel that doubles as a hospital of last resort for the criminal set. Bautista explains that Wiley will be fine before abandoning him.

What Sony, Universal and Global Road seem to be trying to do is create content that gets people’s attention, not just ads that are easily skipped over. These are micro-moments that incorporate elements of influencer marketing since the idea is that the NBA players themselves are affixing their personal brand and popularity to the movies, hopefully bringing some members of their fanbase along for the ride.

That doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact on Hotel Artemis, the only movie of this group currently in theaters. It grossed only $3.1 million in its opening weekend despite receiving good reviews that called out its originality and off-kilter tone, both things people claim to want more of.

Two of the four movies – Artemis and Night School – didn’t feature any actual film footage at all, an interesting tactic that may not have helped make the case for the more unusual-looking Artemis but which isn’t that surprising for Night School since the focus of that movie’s campaign to date is on Hart and Haddish, not the story. The Jurassic World spot was the most footage-heavy (though nothing that showed any of the human characters, which is also consistent with that movie’s larger campaign) and Equalizer didn’t pull it out until the very end, which makes sense.

While the NBA Finals may not be the massive cultural event of something like the Super Bowl, it’s obvious studios wanted to get at least some exposure and awareness out of a series that was predicted to be worth watching. How those ads wind up impacting the three movies still awaiting their theatrical release remains to be seen.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Picking Up the Spare – Hearts Beat Loud, Ocean’s 8, Hotel Artemis and More

Hearts Beat Loud

Great interview at the LA Times with Kiersey Clemons and Sasha Lane about working on the film and representation on screen.

Director Brett Haley talks about the music and relationships in the film.

Oceans 8

There were multiple interviews with Sarah Edwards, the movie’s costume designer, as she talked about outfitting all the actors for the fake Met Gala they attend. How that event was filmed was also the subject of a behind-the-scenes profile.

Get the details on the Touissant Necklace that is the object of the heist.

Given that James Corden has a supporting role in the movie it’s only natural the cast would stop by his show to have some fun.

Gary Ross, the movie’s director, spoke about what cameos from the first three movies did or didn’t make the cut for the finished film.

Hotel Artemis

Brian Tyree Henry has done a bit more press now that the movie is in theaters, including “The Daily Show.”

Writer/director Drew Pearce also has talked with Vanity Fair, The Hollywood Reporter and more about what kind of movie he set out to make and how he created something fairly unique.

Deadpool 2

It’s not specifically about the movie but there is a brief mention so I’ll use that as an excuse to share the latest video where Ryan Reynolds is interviewed by his twin brother Gordon.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Hotel Artemis – Marketing Recap

hotel artemis posterJodie Foster is here to tell us the rules in Hotel Artemis, written and directed by Drew Pearce. Foster plays Jean Thomas, the nurse at an establishment that acts as a safe spot and hospital for the criminal underworld. She’s assisted there by Everest (Dave Bautista) and operates successfully because everyone who comes there understands the rules, including that there’s no violence on the property.

That rule winds up being broken when a series of events brings a strange group of people together on a single night. Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) is on the run and in need of help after pulling a job. But he’s attracted some unwanted attention from a crime lord named The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), who is out to recover what’s been taken from him. Also there that night are bad guys played by Sofia Boutella, Charlie Day and more, all with their own agendas and desire for survival.

The Posters

The teaser poster doesn’t include any mentions of the high-caliber cast or the story, just showing the hotel’s logo and name. Not much and not hugely effective unless you know what the movie is about already and have other information to support it and add context to it.

The second poster uses that same logo but shows all the shady characters that will pass through the hotel in the frame of the door. The orange, fire-like tone everything has hints that there will be more than a little chaos caused by all these folks and their actions.

The Trailers

The first half of the trailer is devoted to introducing us to the world the story takes place in. On a broad level that means the violent hellscape that is LA in 2028 (insert “so I see things haven’t changed” joke) and the hotel itself, which has specific rules to protect the staff and those who seek sanctuary there. The second half is about how, as we see early on, Waikiki has stolen something valuable from a very powerful man who wants his property back. That theft, while unintentional, has consequences for Waikiki and the hotel in general as everyone looks to make it through the night.

Well that looks like a lot of fun. It’s wacky and violent and over-the-top but also completely committed, at least based on what’s seen here, to the premise. With such a great cast that’s been brought together this has to be at least kind of good.

A red-band trailer later on hit the same basic chords but presented things a bit differently, mixing up some of the character introductions, overview of the rules of the hotel and more. Missing is much of the exposition about why all these criminals have converged in one place on one night and in its place is lot of cursing and glorified violence.

One last “Character” trailer took the approach of trying to look like a 70s grindhouse type flick, with grainy footage and voiceover that introduced all the various criminals and their associates that keep the story going. It’s alright, but not as clever as it thinks it is.

Online and Social

There were Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles for the movie but no official owned site.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A TV spot focused mostly on setting up the hotel and its rules as well as its all-star cast, showing the movie as a grungy and violent story with a wicked sense of gallows humor. Another delved more into the story and the rules of the hotel as well as how those rules get broken. This one was just about presenting a kinetic and violent good time with a catchy rhythm. A special TV spot featuring Bautista ran during “Sports Center.” There were also online ads that used elements of the key art as well as video snippets, which also showed up in social ads.

Media and Publicity

Brown showed up on the late night TV circuit, engaging in hijinks and promoting this movie as well as talking about that show he’s on and some of his other recent movies. Foster did the same to talk about the movie’s story and lots more. Other members of the cast did other publicity stops on various media.


There’s quite a bit to like about the campaign. It sometimes goes a little far in trying to sell the style over the substance, but it’s hardly the first marketing push to do so. There’s certainly a consistency to the brand here as everything is bathed in that orange brown light, like street lights filtered through window that hasn’t been cleaned in far too long.

Foster is, of course, the central focus here even if she isn’t the central focus. What I mean by that is that the marketing spread the attention around to Brown, Bautista, Goldblum, Boutella and others, but it all revolves around Foster’s nurse, both because she’s a central figure and because Foster is just such a presence. The campaign presents a lot of reasons to see the movie – it’s violent and darkly funny among them, but Foster disappearing behind an accent and glasses might be chief among them.


Brian Tyree Henry has done a bit more press now that the movie is in theaters, including “The Daily Show.”
Writer/director Drew Pearce also has talked with Vanity Fair, The Hollywood Reporter and more about what kind of movie he set out to make and how he created something fairly unique.