Hoop Dreams for Big Blue

IBM is looking to highlight its e-business infrastructure products and services with a new campaign featuring National Basketball Associations legends.

In its latest television ad campaign for its server and e-business products, Big Blue taps a veritable Dream Team of basketball greats, including Moses Malone, Xavier McDaniel, Muggsy Bogues, Detlef Schremp and Bill Laimbeer.

Except in the ads, they’re playing as “Mainframe,” “Middleware,” “PC,” “Linux” and “Firewall.”

Together, the stars represent team “Infrastructure,” and in a series of spots designed by IBM agency of record Ogilvy & Mather, the team goes head-to-head against archrival Crash, whose players bear the names “Hacker,” “Virus,” “Spike,” “Downtime,” and “Spam”.

With another superstar, the San Antonio Spurs’ George Gervin, as head coach, Infrastructure naturally crushes Crash.

Of course, team Infrastructure represents a tongue-in-cheek allegory of how integration among Armonk, New York-based IBM’s various products gives its clients the edge in stability and reliability. But it’s a pitch that’s designed to resonate with IBM’s target market: typically male IT directors, who often rank systems integration as one of their chief hurdles.

The first spot, “The Game,” began airing this week and introduces the players and the premise, while five additional spots will refine and deepen the metaphor. “Unsung Hero” focuses on Middleware (McDaniel) as a well-integrated team’s critical component; “Linux” concentrates on Schrempf ‘s character as the driving force of seamless interoperability; “The Other Side” explores team Crash; “The Big Idea” concentrates on Gervin and legacy systems; and “Endless Season” highlights continuous uptime — that is, that there’s no off-season for team Infrastructure.

The spots will run during NFL broadcasts in January of Wild Card, Playoff and Conference Championship games, with several ads appearing during each game.

Thus far, the campaign is slated for television only, though spokespeople at IBM said the technology giant also is exploring out-of-home.

It’s not the first time that Big Blue has tapped sports celebrities to tout its hardware and software. NBA superstar David Robinson, hockey greats Eric Lindros and Gordie Howe and tennis loudmouth John McEnroe also have appeared during recent years in spots for various IBM product lines.

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