“Dear Basketball” is Kobe Bryant’s animated ode to the sport that made him a superstar. He asked legendary animator Glen Keane (“The Little Mermaid”) to illustrate the film and John Williams (“Star Wars”) to create a stirring score. Our objective was simple, but daunting: win the short film an Academy Award, and do so while inspiring the passion inside millions of consumers.
Our strategy was two-fold. First, we focused on designing a brand campaign message that would resonate with voters and consumers, and then on reaching those consumers and voters with innovative tactical approaches that changed the game. Rather than saturate traditional channels, we focused on the project’s artistry, with selective press and campaigning designed to move the needle. Our focus would be on the product’s artistry and emotional storytelling about Bryant’s roots—and how his dreams inspire the child in us all.
We started by recruiting the most important thought leaders and key press to start our campaign in summer 2017. We restricted public interviews with talent to maintain humility, and launched with key interviews for credibility. Later, we drove conversation with trade ads, innovative digital ad tech, social media, and email marketing. Finally, we did a roadshow with Academy voters in animation studios around the country and hosted by key industry leaders to earn a shortlist spot. All of this was paired with the halo of a consumer-facing campaign that provided a backdrop of press coverage and advertising—not with our stars, but about them, allowing us to appear confident and strong but also humble and independent, earning us a nomination in January 2018.
“Dear Basketball” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film after a grueling nine-month campaign, as well as an Annie—an animation-specific award—for Best Short Film. It was selected as Best Short Film in the World Animation Festival and issued the festival’s first-ever Special Jury Award for its high quality. Our work was selected as the Digiday 2018 Agency-Client Collaboration of the Year and has received more than a dozen industry awards.