The NBA . . . aka The National Bush League.

Have you seen this ad on a phone kiosk near you?

Sorry if the photo isn’t as clear as it should be, but my hands were shaking from irritation when I took it.

It features a photo of a Knick and the text reads . . .

It’s Friday night.  You can either see a Broadway harness malfunction or you can watch real men fly.

Really guys?  Really?  You’re going to take a pot-shot at another industry in your own hometown?  When that industry brings in a lot more bodies and a lot more buckaroos than you do?  (And you even admit its power by making the word Broadway bigger than the rest, because you know it’ll get attention?)

Second, uh, I’m usually not this sensitive, but that “real men” comment is on the edge of being offensive.  So Broadway actors aren’t real men, huh?  Let me remind you that our men and women have trained for a greater part of their lives to do what they do, and they perform 8 times a week, 52 weeks a year . . . all for a minimum salary that ain’t anywhere near the millions that you guys pay.  And you tell me the last time a Broadway actor got a shoe deal, had a chartered flight to get them to their next show.  So don’t tell me who “real men” are.

In fact, I’d put ours against yours in a Battle of the Network Stars-like Broadway versus Basketball competition any day of the week.

But, you know what?  None of the above is what really colored me confused.

What has me really scratching my head at the copywriter who dashed this off is . . . pot-shot or not . . . it’s just not a very effective ad . . . because the target audience is all wrong.

Ok, ok, you made a pop culture reference.  Big whoop.  Come on, my friend.  Spider-Man jokes may still get a bit of a chuckle, but they’re so 2010.

More importantly, do you really think that you have the potential to convert someone who was interested in seeing a Broadway show to a basketball game?  I’m not sure you understand who you’re shooting for.

They may have gotten some attention with this ad, but getting attention is only half of the battle of advertising.  I can hire a gorilla to do back handsprings down 42nd Street to get eyeballs.  But that doesn’t mean anyone is going to buy a ticket.

And after seeing this ad, I know I won’t be buying any tickets to a basketball game anytime soon.

(Upon further investigation, it looks like MSG placed this this ad, as opposed to the NBA, although I think the NBA has a responsibility here, just like the Broadway League supervises and comments on what we do.  And I’m hoping the Broadway League has some strong comments for MSG as well.)


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below!  Click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)



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  • Kevin Lambert says:

    AMEN, sir. Amen.

  • terryholzman says:

    stupid ad. First of all it doesn’t make sense “…see a Broadway harness malfunction…” What does that mean? Did these genuises leave out a word?

    • terryholzman says:

      Oops, finally figured it out! I haven’t seen SPIDERMAN so I did not get the “harness”
      context. It’s still a dumb ad on EVERY level!

  • Scott says:

    Well put, Ken. Thanks. What does the “Bush” reference mean in your post title?

  • Emma B says:

    This is infuriating. As a musical theatre major in college, I spend too much time every day explaining to insensitive or unthinking people that my major is a serious career choice, not just a phase I’m going through. From family members and friends to strangers, I constantly have to defend my choice to do what I love, no matter how much hard work and effort it takes. To see our industry belittled like this is incredibly upsetting.

  • mike vogel says:

    Before I got past the first few paragraphs, my instincts told me “this is sleazy James Dolan’s handiwork.” Then I kept reading, and saw that it wasn’t the NBA behind it, but Dolan’s MSG.
    Thanks for posting this Ken. Go Nets!

  • She Cohen says:

    You’re preaching to the choir, Ken. Cool your jets then write a nice letter or email to whichever marketing individuals created this ill conceived ad.

  • Ashley says:

    I LOVE Broadway. Love it. I’ve seen hundreds of performances. There’s nothing like Broadway.

    However, this ad really made me chuckle and made me want to buy a ticket to a Knicks game…

  • A) One of the best blogs I’ve read from you.
    B) To Ashley (above):
    That’s unfortunate.
    C) To She Cohen (above):
    To quote an overdramatic line from a wise old female character, “Sometimes you’ve got to (preach to the choir)–because they’re the people who sing.”

  • Janis says:

    Broadway should be congratulated. It’s the NYC brand. Basketball is every town’s brand.
    Where else would basketball even try to compete with musical theater?

    If anyone knows the email of the responsible party, post it and we’ll ALL complain.

  • Took me a while to figure out MSG was Madison Square Garden.
    Maybe there should be an answer ad.

    Why Watch the Home Team Lose.
    See a Guaranteed Winner:


    • Emma B says:

      That definitely got a laugh out of me. Wouldn’t be pleased to see Broadway stoop to the MSG level with a big ad saying it, but it is a pretty funny response.

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    Last time I checked, none of our Broadway real men have had seven children out of wedlock with seven different women.

  • John David says:


    You are absolutely right as usual. The NBA ad was unnecessary and in bad taste. The larger issue though is why has Broadway given away its predominant position in American entertainment? Back in 1972, both the NBA and Broadway revenues came from ticket sales. Broadway generated revenue more than four times the NBA. Now, in 2012, the NBA brings in nearly $4bil to Broadway’s $1bil. And if anyone thinks comparisons to sport revenue are unfair, consider this, in less than 20 years Cirque du Soleil now generates revenue at a level approaching all of Broadway. More importantly the reach and influence of Broadway throughout society has dissipated. Once, a Rogers and Hammerstein TV special was carried by every network at the same time because it was so important. Today, the Tony Awards are consistently the least watched and least sponsored award show. Why? As much as I love basketball, is throwing a ball in a hoop really more important than the laughing, crying, singing, and growing a person can do at a Broadway show? Broadway needs to use advanced financial and technology tools to grow and regain its rightful reach and influence.

  • Solange De Santis says:

    Can’t remember the last time Broadway ran an ad campaign denigrating another form of entertainment. Bush league, indeed.

  • I think as penance, the Knicks and all of MSG’s advertising personnel should be required to perform “You Gotta Have Heart” at halftime.

    Or maybe a number from Lysistrata Jones, since that featured basketball.

  • Howard says:

    And hey, MSG is in the theater business as well when they present musicals at the Garden (Peter Pan has harnesses, too!) as well as the shows at Radio City and the Beacon Theater, not to mention venues in other cities. It doesn’t behoove them to put down their own product in this sleazy fashion.

  • Pablo Halpern says:

    Infuriating and stupid. I wish you could publish your commentary in the NYT. Great response Ken

  • Jim Joseph says:

    MSG also ran a similarly in poor taste ad that took a swipe at poetry slams. The Nuyorican Poets Cafe brought attention to it and got MSG to pull the ads. Most suprising was that MSG used to sponsor a great teen poetry slam competition an din recent years pulled their funding. To make amneds they’ve promised to start funding some teen literacy programs again. Looks like there will be a Markeing job opening up at MSG soon…..

  • Edwin Rojas says:

    Kudos. You’re absolutely 100% correct. Bad form on MSG and the NBA!

  • Edwin Rojas says:

    Ken, did you see that this ad campaign has backfired on them? There was an article yesterday in The Huffington Post about this and the back lash. CONGRATS!

  • It’s worth mentioning that they’re not just bashing Broadway with this campaign:–nba.html

    It also appears that they’re taking a lot of flak for it.

  • Great post, Ken! I was the one who actually took that photo on 61st St & Broadway and posted it on Facebook along with my rant. Jamie McGonnigal took the story and ran with it! I’m glad to see the ads are being taken down!

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