Last year, Trolli, the sour gummy brand owned by Ferrara Candy, used James Harden's beard as the model for a new candy and featured it prominently in quirky TV spots. Now, the brand is turning the NBA star's "beardly awesome" facial hair into a basketball net.
Minneapolis-based ad agency Periscope has created "Beardsketball," a Trolli- and Harden-branded basketball activation that lets fans shoot hoops into a net that looks strikingly like that famous bushy beard. Beardsketball, which debuts tonight as Harden and the Houston Rockets take on the Golden State Warriors, is equipped with a 80-inch digital backboard programmed with Harden's head trash-talking and congratulating each person trying to make shots.
"It's not even close to being a normal basketball net," said Periscope creative officer Peter Nicholson. "We spent a lot of time to match the natural fiber look of his beard so it's really consistent. I didn't think it was going to work, but when you see the 4K monitor, it looks exactly the same. If you didn't know, it looks like real, real hair."
Beardsketball players will also wear a pair of Snapchat Spectacles linked to Trolli's Snapchat account, with content pushing out throughout the game. Harden will also be wearing a pair of Spectacles during tonight's shootaround, which will give anyone following Trolli's account a chance to see his shots up close. (Trolli, which has used Snapchat since 2015, wouldn't disclose its audience size on the platform but reported 1,000 percent growth over the past year.)
"I'm really excited about the launch of Trolli Beardsketball because it allows me to interact with my fans in a very unique way," Harden said. "Beardsketball is like a video game that people can actually walk right into and shoot some hoops with me. In the game, I encourage, challenge and celebrate every player in a unique and different way each time."
The same smack-talking content featured in the backboard will also be on a microsite, which lets those who can't be at the game pick various quotes from Harden to send to their friends across social channels.
After the game, the Beardsketball setup will begin a yearlong tour of the U.S., said Jill Manchester, svp of marketing and brand strategy for Ferrara. That will include some Harden appearances, such as his basketball camp in Houston for underprivileged kids and the NBA All-Star Game. However, his net beard will also go where his real beard doesn't, including the Coachella music festival and other events that fit the Trolli brand.
"Each experience will feel unique because it's loaded with content that comes up randomly," said Rob Peichel, Periscope's group creative director.
Last year, Ferrara did a survey of fans of Trolli and Harden, which revealed two wishes: They wanted to meet him and also maybe play hoops with him. In a way, Beardsketball sort of helped make both come true.
"Our brand promise is to be weirdly awesome," Manchester said. "And when you think about James, I think he's awesome in the weirdest way possible. Both of us are leaders, we call ourselves innovators. We like to celebrate the abnormal."