NBA, “There Can Only Be One”

In 2008, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners dunked the tradition of freeze-frame action shots customarily used in NBA marketing by replacing it with an image at once emotional and iconic: the human face. Actually, make that two human faces: split-screen composites matched feature for feature. Then they had the nerve to use the contradictory tagline, “There can be only one.” Why? Because this kind of shakeup turned out to be just what pro b-ball needed. The images put a human face— flaws and all—on a sport that seldom strayed from the predictable. The fused visages of frenemies Kobe/Shaq and LeBron/Garnett reminded us that the “one” NBA is in fact a maelstrom of inimitable personalities, while removing the distance between fan and star. And it worked. The ads were so influential that Time “borrowed” the idea for its May 1, 2020 cover, matching the faces of presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Readers knew exactly what it referred to. At a waning time for print advertising, “There can be only one” demanded attention and in the process became a part of pop culture. —Barbara Lippert

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