Adding H-O-R-S-E to the All-Star Game? Cool...Making It G-E-I-C-O? Not Cool

Brian WagnerCorrespondent IFebruary 9, 2009


If you were born with a single cell of athletic ability—or at least have a slight interest in sports—you have probably played the classic basketball game of H-O-R-S-E.

Everyone knows about it. Everyone plays it.

From the shots that consist of going off the roof, banking off the tree, and shooting with your eyes closed to the simple layups, H-O-R-S-E became undoubtedly the top backyard game for kids—and in all honesty, adults too.

I know you are like me. When shooting around with some buddies or your brother, this game will always get some action.

Some are too tired to play one-on-one, so H-O-R-S-E is the next best option: a tireless sport of strategy where the term “clutch” has a completely new meaning.

I sit here writing this, and I feel a little nostalgic. I want to go back to my house and play a game with my Dad and brother.

I know what my first shot would be; I just can’t say.

Each of you that are reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about. You don’t say it publicly, but you use the shot about every game (maybe more) and it could only be used on your court. The uniqueness of your court allows you to prepare a shot that can be seen nowhere else. That’s why it is yours.

But getting back on topic.

I’m sure you were as excited as I was when it was announced that H-O-R-S-E would be played in this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend, along with the popular Slam Dunk Contest and others.

I thought it would be great to see some of NBA’s stars do the same trick shots that I have performed. I wondered if they would go all-out?

Who would participate?

Who would go a step beyond?

And who, of course, would be the NBA’s H-O-R-S-E champion?

All was well until a few days ago…

That’s when news came out that H-O-R-S-E would be changed to G-E-I-C-O.

When I heard this, my stomach churned. I had to give it a double take. I couldn’t believe that sports sponsorships and organization’s marketing have gone this far.

It has become pretty standard to see advertisements almost everywhere we go. Billboards, stadium scoreboards, websites, and even the use of "product placement" in movies are some of the main ways we see marketing tactics everyday. I had thought we had seen it all.

But no. Companies—here Geico Insurance Company—have resorted to new heights. They don’t care what it does to the “game” or history of it. If it means they can have their name advertised, they’re in. Whatever the cost.

Once All Star weekend commences, we’ll see the Slam Dunk contest. We will watch the three-point contest. All will seem like a pattern we’ve seen before:

Electrifying dunks, like Dwight Howard’s sticker dunk and Nate Robinson’s highflying image. Steve Nash dominating in the skills challenge, and a newcomer drilling threes like Robert Horry vs. the Kings.

But something will be a little off. Not only will the H-O-R-S-E game be a new addition, but also with Geico being used as the letters. It just doesn’t seem natural. It seems more surreal than anything else.


We’ve seen companies sponsor events, like the (Sprite) Skills Challenge in the All-Star game, but incorporating the advertisement into the actual affair is a whole, new low. Although I believe it will still be a hit—because it is still the classic game of H-O-R-S-E—it will have a different effect; because it just won’t be the same. This game is a classic; meaning it is supposed to be "untouchable."

Coming from a guy who grew up playing H-O-R-S-E all the time as a kid with anyone he could find, I am not sure what to think about the All-Star game adopting it into its weekend activities.

On one hand, it will be fun to watch the NBA stars take part in it, but on the other, I don’t like seeing the game turn into a scrolling advertisement. It’s the backyard game that has an unequivocal strategy of making up the rules as you go. It’s a game that cannot be matched by any other of its kind, and has expanded too many other varieties.

But reality is reality. And we have to face it.

H-O-R-S-E is now G-E-I-C-O in the business world. But only in the business world.

Next week when I go back out to my court, I will go to my spot and release my shot. You know the drill. My brother will miss, giving him an H.

Yes, we can still play H-O-R-S-E.