SBD/October 27, 2010/Marketing and Sponsorship

Joke's On You: LeBron Says New Nike Spot Not Intended To Be Funny

Watch Nike's Latest Spot
Featuring LeBron James

Heat F LeBron James yesterday said that the message in his new Nike spot is "dead serious," even though several of its scenes "seemed intended to invoke humor," according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. The 90-second ad debuted on TNT during last night's season-opening Heat-Celtics game after Nike launched it online on Monday, and James said, "None of (the scenes) were jokes, I wasn’t in a joking mood." Windhorst noted James in the commercial "seems to challenge his detractors, including a direct shot" at Basketball HOFer Charles Barkley. James said, "It was just how I was feeling at the time, it is still how I feel at some points in my life. I just wanted to get it out. … It was me just hearing a lot of people saying some of the things I’ve done -- have I ruined what I’ve done over the years" (ESPN.com, 10/26). James indicated that he and Nike "collaborated on ideas" for the spot, via Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, "largely on what James had experienced" since announcing his plans to sign with the Heat in an ESPN special. Since many critics said that he had "ruined his legacy, he included a scene that had him speaking at his Hall of Fame induction to an audience of none." James yesterday said, "I'm not saying I'm a Hall of Famer, but I'm heading in the right direction" (PALM BEACH POST, 10/27). James: "The mindset that was behind everything was what went on this summer and my life to this point. I wanted to try to get the message out there and let everyone know how I was feeling at the time and how I'm still feeling to this day" ("Inside The NBA," TNT, 10/26).

FIT FOR A KING? In Cleveland, Bud Shaw wrote the Nike spot is "smart and funny in pieces." But he added, "Taken as a whole, it's LeBron feeling sorry for himself because ... well, I'm not sure why. Because he took some real criticism for the first time in his life?" (CLEVELAND.com, 10/26). ESPN's Jim Rome said, "The entire spot was, in essence, a defense for what he did. ... The spot was slick and it was entertaining, but the words would mean a lot more if they came from him and weren't written for him by Nike or an ad agency" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 10/26). ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said, "You can't be the global icon, you can't sit on top of the throne on top of the mountain where the wind blows the highest, and get sensitive when people take shots at you" ("The Scott Van Pelt Show," ESPN2, 10/26). ABC's George Stephanopoulos said Nike "always goes for the controversy." Stephanopoulos: "I can't help but think this is pretty good for Nike. I'm not so sure it's good for LeBron" ("GMA," ABC, 10/27).

STRIKES THE RIGHT TONE: L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said of the ad, "I thought it was tremendous because it showed him as a human being. We've seen him and we've vilified him and again, he deserved to be vilified. But this showed him ... as a 25-year-old kid. It was very, very good." Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw: "It makes fun of LeBron, it makes fun of all the stuff around LeBron." Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said Nike and Wieden + Kennedy at least have James "on the right track of trying to reach out to people and kind of apologizing and saying, 'What do you want me to do?'" Paige: "This is going to be good for his image" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 10/26). Comcast SportsNet's Barry Svrluga said, "This is a very clever ploy, but I think at some point they are going to have to move this aside and win a championship" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 10/26). USA TODAY's Tom Weir writes, "This effort by Nike certainly works better than the one in which a stone-faced Tiger Woods listened to his father's voice from the grave." However, USA TODAY's Reid Cherner writes James is "in full Col. Jessep mode" from the movie "A Few Good Men," and he "would rather you just said thank you and went on your way" (USA TODAY, 10/27).

NO HARD FEELINGS: Barkley was the guest on ESPN’s “PTI” yesterday, and he discussed James’ commercial, in which ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser noted James “takes a real shot at you in his new Nike commercial, citing your own role model ad before chomping on a pink doughnut and saying, 'Hi, Chuck,' and winking.” Kornheiser: “What was your reaction when you saw it?" Barkley: "I thought it was flat-out awesome. Clearly, you know that I'm a Nike guy, and for them to take the time to respond to me, I thought it was flat-out awesome." ESPN's Michael Wilbon asked, "Do you think Michael Jordan would have a similar sense of humor about this if he feels LeBron's ad took a shot at him?" Barkley: "If you did something to Michael in the first grade, third grade or sixth grade, he's going to hate you for life. No, he don't take it the way I will" ("PTI," ESPN, 10/26).

Watch Jordan Brand's Spot
Featuring Dwyane Wade

FLASH FORWARD: Nike's Jordan Brand yesterday released a new ad starring Heat G Dwyane Wade, and CBSSPORTS.com's Ben Golliver wrote the commercial's goal is "far less ambitious" that the new James ad. Golliver: "Rather than put forth a defense of the events from this past summer, it simply looks forward to the excitement of the new-look Heat, tagging along as Wade flies through the sky and rides recklessly on a motorcycle like a James Bond style action hero." The spot closes with Wade saying, "Now this, my friend, is going to be fun." Golliver noted it is the "right note for Wade to strike, because he has nothing to apologize for and nobody to apologize to for what happened this offseason." Golliver: "Simple, effective and familiar, this spot won't have nearly the staying power of LeBron's, but that doesn't mean it isn't intelligent and well-intentioned too" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/26). FanHouse.com's Jon Weinbach discussed the two ads and noted it is almost like Nike is "setting them up as two different kinds of tent pole movie franchise heroes." Weinbach: "LeBron is maybe more sympathetic, maybe less of an action hero, and Dwyane Wade is some kind of hybrid Batman/Superman action hero. It has nothing to do with the shoes. ... The Dwyane Wade ad seems like something else, for another product, easily forgettable. The LeBron one really stands out." Weinbach added the Wade spot is not "really attached to anything related to the Dwyane Wade brand as opposed to the LeBron spot, which really hits everything" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 10/26).

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