Donald Sterling may have had enough.

Consequently, his Los Angeles Clippers, deemed the "worst franchise in professional sports" by Sports Illustrated earlier this year, are asking fans to take a leap of faith.

Using a marketing campaign that may be one of the most costly in NBA history, this year the Clippers have added player branding to their traditional retail advertising campaign. The campaign, centered on the team's new players, tipped off with almost daily ads in the Los Angeles Times shortly after Labor Day.

"Hi, I'm Darius Miles," one ad starts out.

Players go on to talk about where they're from, what they hope to accomplish, why they want to play for the Clippers.

"We had an opportunity we thought we should capitalize on,'' said Carl Lahr, Clippers vice president of marketing and sales. "We felt we needed to do a branding campaign to introduce each player and his hopes and dreams individually."

Following another losing season the Clippers have had one winning season since moving from San Diego in 1984 L.A.'s second basketball team fired its coach and cleaned house. The team went into training camp last month with unheralded coach Alvin Gentry (the Clippers' 12th since moving to L.A.), six rookies and 10 players with less than five years of NBA experience.

While the housecleaning is nothing new, the marketing campaign is. In what may come as a surprise to the business community, Clippers owner Donald Sterling, notorious for his frugal ways, initiated the campaign, according to Lahr.

"Maybe Donald Sterling is tired of being in the shadow, tired of losing games and losing players and believes in what he has now,'' said Steve Brener, president of the Reseda-based public relations firm of Brener, Zwikel and Associates.

Sterling may be right to believe, but it will take more than one season to put a winning team on the floor and create some excitement.

"I think (the ad campaign) is a good idea because they do have some guys who can generate interest," said Jorge Ortiz, who writes about the NBA for the San Francisco Examiner. "These guys won't be good now, but they will be in the future. I think the Clippers have finally realized that the only way to get players to stay is to sign rookies bound (for a few years anyway) by their contracts and then hope they stay together long enough to convince them (to stay)."


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