Detroit — Lawrence Lamont has directed music videos for Big Sean and J. Cole. He’s involved with a new show, “Rap Sh!t,” coming out on HBO. But it’s hard to find anything that he’s prouder of than the one-minute clip that will set the tone for the Detroit Pistons’ season and tell the story of a community reconnecting with its team.
Lamont directed the Pistons’ new TV brand spot, which is narrated by Big Sean and has the motto “Different by Design,” and shows the story of real Detroiters — like him.
“I’m from Detroit and I’ve been a Pistons fan my whole life, legitimately,” Lamont told The Detroit News. “So, this project was very heartfelt for me. It wasn’t about the money; it wasn’t about the next project. It was like, ‘I really want to do this and I believe in this team.’”
The campaign draws inspiration from Detroit’s past. “Different by Design” is a slogan that acknowledges how different the Pistons’ championship history has been from other teams that won in their respective eras. It’s also a nod to the city as a whole, which has always had its own flavor.
“Steam-powered trains were cool, but we raised you on engine. Music was music, until it was Motown,” Big Sean says. “We shook our heads at Showtime (Lakers) and trotted out the Bad Boys.”
In the video, a basketball takes on a life of its own, bouncing through the city and leaving behind it a stream of gold dust. Starting in the backyard of Lamont’s childhood home, it passes by murals done by Rick Williams and Tony Lee and skips around to a few of the city’s well-known spots, before ultimately landing at Little Caesars Arena.
The spot features cameos from Pistons greats Ben Wallace and Dave Bing and the opening scene was shot in the backyard of Lamont’s childhood home, where he said he developed his love for film and his aunt still lives.
“I knew I wanted this to kind of be star-studded in a sense, via Hall of Famers with Detroit legends the average person may not know, but our Detroiters may see them on screen, and they’ll know,” Lamont said.
“That was something that was very important for me, and also not just showing downtown, Corktown. Like, the opening scene is on 7 Mile and Prairie, and ironically, it’s at my aunt and uncle’s home, where I grew up in essentially, essentially … and literally fell in love with cinema, so it was kind of full-circle to film there.
“So, I wanted to really make sure we got the essence of Detroit with real, practical locations and places you don’t typically see on camera, while making this feel magical and star-studded. The gold-dust-particle energy is like a metaphor for the untapped energy inside of the city, you know?”
“Different by Design” is a nod to Pistons team owner Tom Gores’ vision for the city when they moved downtown, which Pistons senior vice president of marketing and chief marketing officer Alicia Jeffreys described as becoming a “community asset.”
The team has already started to make headway on that goal by relocating the franchise’s G League team to downtown in a shared space with Wayne State University and opening a new practice facility with retail and community spaces in Detroit’s New Center area.
“I think now, we would like to bridge that gap between basketball and the community, and just to continue to tell that story. Because for us, that’s not gonna go away. When we made the move downtown, we reasserted our commitment to the city. We’d always been here, but we just sort of reasserted it,” Jeffreys said.
“… It was built intentionally to be a community asset, to have visibility, to feel open, to feel different.
“When I say this thread has been woven through for the last several years, it really has. It’s definitely not going away that we are intentionally doing things different.”
And with the Pistons hoping that they’ve secured their franchise players of the future in the past three drafts, Jeffreys said this felt like a particularly important campaign.
“I think we felt like we’re turning the corner a little bit, and we just have a renewed sense of energy around everything that we do as an organization,” Jeffreys said. “So, when we approach the marketing, we want to make sure that we equally match that energy as what we’re seeing (Pistons general manager) Troy (Weaver) doing in the front office.”
Much like the Pistons aimed to tap nostalgia with the new team slogan, Lamont said he wanted to do the same with the piece that he directed. He’s also hopeful that the relationship between him and the Pistons is “longstanding” and that they can continue to reimagine the team’s branding efforts.
“I think that there is a world where we can shy away from what we’re so used to seeing from spots like this, and venture into doing cooler things, and things that are just different and feel unique,” Lamont said.
Lawrence Lamont and the Detroit Pistons — both different by design.