In what may be the first major viral marketing event in the history of sports (at least to my knowledge), the NBA Developmental League’s Utah Flash is reaping the success (and failure) of an elaborate campaign. Ryan Corazza has the scoop at ESPN. Apparently, Flash flans were under the assumption they were going to see Michael Jordan and Bryan Russell play a one-on-one basketball game at halftime of Monday’s game to benefit charity. It would be a rematch of the final seconds of the 1998 NBA Finals.
The problem was that Jordan never said he would do it. The other problem was that he never said he wouldn’t do it. So this past Monday, after the local paper reported seeing Jordan around town, the buzz began. A video of him surfaced on YouTube eating at a local establishment. A record crowd showed up to the Flash’s home opener to see the halftime festivities. There, they learn the truth. The man being reported as Jordan was not like Mike.
The event had been staged. The faux MJ. The YouTube video. The planned pickup game (to be fair, an invitation was extended to Jordan, but he never replied). It was all the plan of Flash owner Brandt Andersen to sell tickets and drum up interest in his team. Did it work? Yes, but not without angering the already pocket sized fan base. He’s since apologized on his blog and offered refunds.
For those that measure the success of a viral by the amount of publicity that is generated, good or bad, then the Flash’s undertaking is a massive success. The story made the front page of ESPN.com earlier in the week, and the YouTube video of the phony Michael Jordan now has over 300,000 views. Word has undoubtedly spread, and if you ask one to name just one NBA D-League team, I would bet they would say the Flash. For those that believe a viral is only as successful as its end result, then the embarrassment and disdain many feel towards owner Brandt Andersen is fitting.
Here’s a video of the crowd finding it out it’s a hoax.
I want to know what you think though. Would you consider this viral successful? Or do campaigns need to have a worthy payoff? Let us know below.