How 'Uncle Drew' Went from Viral YouTube Hit to NBA Finals Ad [VIDEO]

Mashable

Basketball fans watching the first few games of the NBA Finals this week will probably see a familiar character pop up during commercial breaks. His name is Uncle Drew, and he's an old geezer whose crossover dribbles break ankles, and whose powerful dunks rattle rims.

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But here's what fans who see the ad on ABC probably don't know: The video was never intended for broadcast in the first place. Pepsi had little choice but to buy some prime ad time after seeing its short spot go mega-viral online, gaining nearly 10 million YouTube views in three weeks.

Here's the premise of the original five-minute ad: A young basketball player in New Jersey brings his ancient, bespectacled and grey-bearded Uncle Drew along for some evening pickup games. At first Drew performs as expected -- little mobility, atrocious bricks and general incompetence. Then he starts to loosen up, banging jumpers, handling the ball like a yoyo and rising for ferocious slams as flabbergasted defenders and spectators stare on in disbelief.

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Later, everyone finds out the the aged star is actually NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie (middle name Andrew) Irving, who does a pretty remarkable acting job as a decrepit old man.

"We had no plans at all to advertise on the NBA Finals, and no media plans for this spot at all," Pepsi Max marketer Sam Duboff, who led development of the Uncle Drew spot, told Mashable on Tuesday. "But people here got so excited when they saw how it performed, and we were able to produce enough metrics that finding the media budget for it just made a lot of sense."

The broadcast ad will be a 30-second trailer of sorts for the original video, and direct viewers back to the full version online via a URL.

That full version has proved to sticky as well as popular among the web's short attention spans. Duboff says 80% of viewers are still watching four minutes in. The hashtag #UncleDrew has been mentioned 10,000 times on Twitter, and major sports figures and sites such as NBA star Steve Nash and ESPN site Grantland.com have shared the ad with readers and followers.

Duboff says the Uncle Drew video was produced on a "digital budget" that was a fraction of the cost of a typical broadcast production budget, which could have funded "several" productions like this. Already an emerging model in advertising, testing ideas online before splurging on a full media buy is something Duboff sees gaining more traction with huge brands such as Pepsi.

"I think there's always going to be a role for big budget Super Bowl ads," he says. "But when you start to see something like this resonate and perform well, it adds a whole new element to what you can do."


BONUS: 11 Twitter Must-Follows for the NBA Finals


1. @WindhorstESPN

Windhorst has covered LeBron James since the Chosen One was a high school prodigy in Ohio. Now he covers James and the Heat for ESPN.com, and consistently provides scoops, insights and interesting stats.

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This story originally published on Mashable here.

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