'Ghostbusters' Seeks to Woo Men with NBA Finals Partnership

Kobe Bryant - Behind-the-Scenes Ghostbusters Promo-Screen Shot-H 2016
Courtesy of YouTube/The Players' Tribune

Sony aired two ads during during Thursday night's Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.

Sony desperately needs to attract men to its all-female Ghostbusters reboot opening on July 15. With that effort, the studio is aiming its proton beam at basketball fans.

A new series of promotional spots were launched during Thursday night's Game 1 of the NBA Finals on ABC between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. East Coast audiences saw an ad featuring current New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis alongside legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier and the team's most visible fan, Spike Lee. That ad was shot at an empty Madison Square Garden. And on the West Coast, viewers watched a spot featuring recently retired Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant decked out in the Ghostbusters jumpsuit at his former home, the Staples Center.

“Everyone wondered what Kobe would do after the NBA,” said Josh Greenstein, president of worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony Pictures. “Now we know  he’s a Ghostbuster.”

When Bryant announced his retirement, Sony quietly enlisted the basketball great to join the film's marketing efforts. It was a shrewd move given the criticism the film has received from male corners. Ever since Sony announced its plans two years ago to reboot the comedy classic with an all-female Ghostbusting team, it has been facing heat from male fans, hitting a fever pitch over the past few weeks as the studio released its first two trailers: the first earning the embarrassing distinction of worst-rated YouTube trailer ever (Sony has dismissed that rating as the work of a few influential blogs funneling all of their readers to hit the dislike button and maintains that both trailers have been well received).

Bryant was involved in his commercial's scripting process and documented the shoot with a gallery of behind-the-scenes photos. Bryant's footage was posted before the game Thursday through The Players' Tribune (he's an investor). His uniform was emblazoned with "Mamba," his nickname.

Sony certainly hasn't left the female fan base behind and continues to target women heavily. Last week, the film's stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon appeared on Ellen during the same episode that featured presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Still, having a film heavily promoted during the NBA Finals is no slam dunk when it comes to box-office success. Last year, Sony promoted its Adam Sandler comedy Pixels during the games, featuring New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis. Those ads also were done in partnership with ESPN CreativeWorks, a longtime collaborator of Sony's. But that film went on to earn a disappointing $79 million in the U.S.

“Filming in an empty MSG added to the ambiance of the shoot,” said Carrie Brzezinski, ESPN CreativeWorks' vp of marketing solutions. “It’s such a massive, storied space with many of its own ‘ghosts.’ Between shots, we delved into some really heady issues, like what Slimer might eat if he really did haunt MSG. In the original movie, he famously took over a hot dog vendor at Rockefeller Center, so hot dogs would be my guess  he’s into that old school New York street food.”