Dwight Howard was doing some tremendous trending on Twitter during the course of today. Just not so much with the #StayD12 halo affect that the Lakers could have anticipated with their latest billboard campaign throughout the city.
The Lakers’ Instagram and Twitter accounts announced in a somewhat coy way early Wednesday that giant overhead signage with the simple message “Stay” had been placed at various locations, including one slapped onto the side of Staples Center.
“If you’re walking Hollywood Blvd. looking down at the stars, don’t miss the one above you #StayD12,” read one tweet, with a photo of the billboard featuring Howard above the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
By this morning, the team had more than 1,000 retweets and hundreds of “favorites” respondents. They also had the media seizing upon it, adding their own twist:
“If you’re the Lakers, you don’t beg people to stay,” said Dan Patrick on his syndicated radio show. “You say, ‘We’re all in, are you D12?’ Sacramento did this with Chris Webber (in 2001). You’re the Lakers. You don’t beg. Take down those silly billboards. ‘Stay’ … ‘Please’… ‘Pretty please.’”
A tweet from Ben Maller, who has a syndicated show on Fox Sports Radio: “On same day Clippers hire championship winning coach (Doc Rivers), Lakers put up billboard begging Dwight Howard to stay. #minorleague.”
Deadspin.com called the campaign “kind of sad.” USA Today referred to it a resorting “to desperation.” NBC Sports Radio said it was “desperate, embarrassing & kind of hilarious #HesJustNotThatIntoYou.”
Lakers vice president of public relations John Black admitted that “a significant amount” was spent on the seven billboards around town – with possibly more to come. Estimates, based on the costs of billboards in prime Southern California spots, could easily push this past $50,000 for a month’s worth of exposure.
The backlash, Black added, was “pretty much expected. There’ll always be some negative feedback. One of the things we’ve learned is that when someone’s unhappy, we’ll hear from them, but not so much with things are positive. We didn’t want to let what we knew about incoming negative feedback dissuade us from doing this as best we could.
“We want to let him know how important he is to us out in the public. We’re comfortable letting the public know how we feel.”
How will Howard react? According to a “source close to Howard” who spoke to The Sporting News, “Dwight does want to be courted. He notices the little things.” It has also been reported that Howard was unhappy when playing in Orlando that his image was not used as much to promote the team, which lost to the Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals.
But as Patrick noted, this really isn’t such an original idea. Not even when it comes to trying to woo Howard.
The team wasn’t behind it, though – celebrity booking agent Ryan Totka was, admitting to ESPN that he spent $20,000 of his own money on a campaign that included the billboards, a website (StayDwight.com), T-shirts and stickers.
“The difference between when (Shaquille O’Neal) left Orlando (after four years in a deal to the Lakers in 1996) and now that Dwight may leave is that fans have a voice in the matter via social media and campaigns like StayDwight.com,” Totka said at the time. “If you’re Dwight, it’s got to be hard to think about leaving when you see the kind of support we have drummed up.”
This, from the same Totka who in December, 2011 spent another $2,000 for digital billboard space to try to get the Magic to acquire Chris Paul.
How’d that all work out?
Black said the Orlando campaign “never came up at any of our meetings” between the Lakers’ marketing, public relations, community relations and basketball operations executives as this L.A. billboard plan was put into effect.
Soon, there was a similar looking campaign going on Twitter with a billboard-like graphic from @SoCalEverton asking the Premier League’s Everton F.C. to keep star player Leighton Baines with the tag: #StayLB3, rather than let him be transferred to another team.
One response to the Lakers’ billboard barrage came from Eric Stangel, the executive producer and writer for “Late Show with David Letterman.” He tweeted: “Lakers putting up billboards urging Dwight Howard to stay. Might help if they put up billboards urging (coach Mike) D’Antoni to leave.”
Consider that done, too. Tyson Beck, an Australian artist who works in graphic design and founded an NBA artwork design site called posterizes.com created a “billboard” with D’Antoni’s image that read simply “Leave” with #LeaveMDA.
Last March, when the Lakers and Howard came to Orlando to play the Magic, a local FM radio station tricked up a billboard with digital counter that marked the number of days, hours and minutes “ ‘Til Dwight Leaves Us Again.”
Anyone consider doing that in L.A. at this point might want to see how well that goes over as the July 1 deadline approaches to when Howard can hear offers from other teams, then make up his mind by July 10 if he wants to opt out.