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LeBron James, Kobe Bryant Join Nike Air Force 25 Drive

Get ready for one of the biggest Nike marketing blitzes you’ve ever seen. Nike is devoting massive time and money to its campaign surrounding the 25th anniversary of the Air Force 1. Last month, it soft-launched the Air Force 25 shoe with the real launch coming Jan. 25. A hot new commercial hits the airwaves tomorrow -- “The Second Coming. Our Game. Our Time” -- on MTV with all of Nike’s stars playing a pickup game in Air Force 25s.

I had a chance to talk with Joaquin Hidalgo, Nike’s global vice president of marketing, and Adam Roth, Nike’s U.S. advertising director, about the push.

Are you worried that consumers will be confused with LeBron and Kobe appearing in spots for this shoe while they have their own signature shoes to sell?

Hidalgo: They are different products and different bodies of communication. This campaign is a celebration of Air Force 1. The players all have their own personal connection to the Air Force 1. We’re cognizant that the players have their own performance shoes and we feel that they are perfectly compatible.

[Note: In order to avoid confusion Nike actually had both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant play the commercial pick-up games in their respective signature shoes in stead of Air Force 25s]

You guys have really started an alliance with MTV, recently broadcasting your Air Force One “1 Night Only” party and now the commercial hits on MTV first. Why is that?

Roth: They are very strong partners and they’re willing to work with us in a collaborative way. We not only know their advertising sales people, but their programming folks as well, and they deliver the audience that we want. This shoe is not only about performance but also about telling a story about music and hip-hop, and [Viacom- owned] MTV delivers the perfect platform to tell that story.

Here’s my takeaway from the commercial. There’s not enough shots of the shoes. The most memorable part of the commercial is the track, which is good enough to distract from the action. And there are going to be more kids salivating over those unbelievable white warm-ups with the gold trim than the shoes.

By the way, as of now the song -- a Nike-commissioned original by Juelz Santana and Just Blaze -- isn’t yet available on iTunes. And those warm-ups -- somehow no plans for those to be sold. Trust me, when you see them, you'll beg Nike to make them.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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