dunkirk NBA tv spot

Movie marketing is a tricky thing, especially in an age where movie trailers themselves are dissected like mini-films on their own. There’s a genuine art to selling a film, to crafting a campaign that appeals to people from all backgrounds. But it’s all a balancing act – it’s easy to misrepresent a movie in the name of getting more butts in the seats and it’s easy to do something totally insane and crass in in an attempt to sell a movie to an audience that doesn’t closely follow movie news.

And that brings us to this Dunkirk NBA TV spot, which is as hilariously tone deaf as any piece of movie marketing in recent memory. You just know that director Christopher Nolan hates it.

It’s not uncommon for movies to partner with sports leagues for movie promotions. After all, countless millions of people watch sports, which means countless millions of eyeballs getting to see trailers for upcoming movies. And many of those eyeballs belong to people who don’t really follow the movie world, which means that a TV spot for a new summer release will be the first time they’ve seen anything from that movie. It’s a big market. An important market! A market that Warner Bros. decided to tap into with this new Dunkirk spot. And…oh, boy.

We’ve seen plenty of similar spots over the years, but they typically involve superhero movies or big action blockbusters. Footage from a major release is intercut with footage of athletes talking about their game and the message is clear: these basketball and football players are just like Captain America and the Hulk! Go see the latest Marvel movie!

However, the comparison doesn’t quite work when those athletes are describing their experiences on the court while we see footage of British solders struggling to survive German air raids on the shores of Dunkirk, France. Because if there’s one thing that’s just like playing basketball, it’s the strategic retreat of hundreds of thousands of Allied troops during a battle that helped decide the fate of the world during the largest conflict in human history. And yeah, a turnover on the court is certainly comparable to almost being crushed between two ships while desperately and fearfully treading water!

Look, I’m not outraged. I’m not even offended. Let’s not feed the internet outrage machine. Let’s just roll our eyes and chuckle at what a crass and misguided piece of movie marketing this is! I’m very excited to see Dunkirk and I’m very interested if Christopher Nolan’s name is enough to make a sobering war drama a hit during the hot and frenzied summer movie months. But in trying to sell NBA fans on their upcoming WWII epic, Warner Bros.’ marketing department really, really dropped the ball in the most cringeworthy way possible.

However, the next proper Dunkirk trailer arrives on Friday to wash this thing from our minds.

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