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Kevin Durant’s Commercial Success

by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 13, 2011

If you watch a good amount of ESPN or have tuned in to any NBA game during these playoffs on ABC or TNT, you can’t help but see Kevin Durant’s newest Gatorade commercial. It seems to be in an every-other-commercial-break rotation. Durant and the Thunder are getting major face time.

Looks like we better get used to seeing Durant dominating our commercial breaks. This latest Gatorade spot is the most prominent promotional ad Durant has ever had. And they figure to only keep coming as Durant and the Thunder continue to get better and go farther in the NBA playoffs.

An interesting exercise, though, is looking back on Durant’s collection of commercials. It’s a library that has quietly, but quickly, become rather extensive. Take a look at the collection I’ve included below. As a side exercise, notice how much more Durant’s body has filled out in some of the newer spots versus the earlier ones. Enjoy.

Durant’s first commercial!! OK, so this wasn’t really shot in 2005. It was fancy camera work that gave the impression it was filmed during Durant’s high school days. It began airing around Christmas 2010. The NBA did a fantastic job with this one, nonetheless.

A real blast from the past and one of the most effective spots Durant has been in. As he walks through the tunnel toward the court as a rookie with the Seattle SuperSonics, you can almost feel Durant coming of age. Perhaps no commercial captures how young and physically underdeveloped Durant was when he first entered the league.

Who’s that guy in a Wizards jersey? Why does he call himself ‘Hibachi’ in the end? What’s that? There once was a guy named Gilbert Arenas who was an All-Star? He was once one of the best point guards in the league? No way. Well what the heck happened to him? Long story, you say? I’ll take your word for it. Wait, what? He wasn’t acting on defense in this commercial? Players blew by him with ease in real life, too? Are you sure this guy was an All-Star?

This Arenas guy again? I’m starting to believe he was pretty special. But what’s this business about him being the ‘Shoot button’ and wanting to ‘Take it to the hoop every time?’ I thought he was a point guard? What a weird career he must have had.

Didn’t take Durant, or Velvet Hoop, long to separate himself from the likes of Mo Williams, a.k.a Fog Raw, Andre Iguodala, a.k.a Chief Blocka and Rashard Lewis, a.k.a. Ice-O. This campaign was a part of Nike’s Hyperize line of shoes. Not long after, Nike recognized Durant deserved his own signature line and made him one of only three NBA players (Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are the others) with a signature Nike shoe.

And just for kicks, here’s the full Don’t Criticize (Hyperize) video because, well, who can get enough of Velvet Hoop. Here’s hoping Velvet Hoop comes out of hiding and blesses us with some more bars. In the meantime, can someone please explain to me why Mo Williams had six fingers in this video?

Durant appeared here as a part of a more traditional Nike campaign called “My Better is Better” that put a spotlight on performance. The campaign kicked off in early 2008 and continued the introduction of Durant as one of the company’s star athletes.

Durant also had a cameo in the lengthier version, first showing KD mean-mugging the camera then doing drills to improve foot speed.

A series of spots featuring solely Durant began airing in mid-December 2008 to promote Foot Locker’s House of Hoops. In these ads, Durant gave viewers details of his childhood memories of playing ball. The campaign included other NBA ballers such as Deron Williams, Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay sharing memories of their journey in separate ads. This series marked the beginning of companies allowing Durant to step out on his own.

This was one of the more memorable spots Durant has been in. In this one, Durant shared the now well-known story about how he used to sometimes sleep at the Seat Pleasant Rec Center while growing up because he’d be at the gym so much. (As an added bonus, here’s outtakes of Durant’s House of Hoops shoot.)

Can’t say I was ever much of a fan of this one, which joined the rotation in late 2009. Love the play off of Home Alone. But Mike Breen’s acting was a huge letdown. And limiting Durant to exactly 3 1/2 seconds of face time and ‘Yeah, what’s up?’ seemed like a complete waste of his time. Jeff Van Gundy completely carries this joint. And he doesn’t say a thing. That’s either hard to do or speaks directly to the acting quality of the characters with speaking roles. If anyone could pull it off, though, it’s the always entertaining Van Gundy.

Another one that didn’t do much for me. At least this time ESPN gave Durant more airtime.

As part of his partnership with Degree Men, Durant joined Bear Grylls and Tony Hawk and Mark Sanchez to create a “Chain of Adventure” Web series. Each athlete challenged Grylls to complete some sort of adrenaline-fueled stunt. Durant challenged Grylls to do a “Heli-oop.”

The first solo Gatorade commercial Durant appeared in hit airwaves around the 2011 NBA All-Star Weekend. It’s a part of the sports drink’s G Series and paved the way for the much more frequently aired “Durant’s Edge.”

This more comprehensive G Series ad began running in April and features Durant along with tennis superstar Serena Williams, Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk, U.S.A national team goalkeeper Tim Howard, U.S.A. Olympic gold medal-winning track star Allyson Felix and Lauren Froderman, winner of So You Think You Can Dance. So far, Durant is the only athlete in this group to receive his own personal spot.

How could you not love absolutely everything about this spot? James Brown is bumping in the background. The filming took place at the Oklahoma City Arena and inside the Thunder’s real locker room, not some remote location on a staged set. Durant used his real teammates and support staff (which I’ll provide greater insight to in the very near future). There’s a shot of Durant’s signature ‘Get off me’ arm swing after a big-time dunk. And, best of all, Oklahoma City is getting major, major play thanks to extreme close ups of the team’s warm-ups.

So which is your favorite Kevin Durant commercial so far? My top three, in order, are this newest Gatorade Inside Edge commercial, the NBA’s Where Amazing Happens back-to-the-future spot and the NBA’s Where the Next Chapter Happens commercial where KD peels off layers of the different jerseys he’s worn. The jerseys commercial in particular is a concept and shoot I think was just incredibly well done. It said, ‘This young man has arrived.’ Now, with this newest Gatorade ad, Durant has arrived at an even greater place. He’s at the top now.

Let me know if I overlooked and didn’t include a commercial Durant has appeared in.

-DM-

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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