SBD/May 20, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

The Heat Is Rising: LeBron James' Marketability Makes A Resurgence

James' No. 6 was the top-selling jersey in the NBA this season
Heat F LeBron James’ brand “may finally be on its way back” following his highly publicized signing with the team last summer, according to Rich Thomaselli of AD AGE. James has “quietly worked to repair his image, to the point where his No. 6 ended up as the league's best-selling jersey this year.” The “largest audience in the history of NBA cable TV broadcasts watched Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals” on Sunday. Premiere Global Sports Exec VP Robert Tuchman said the viewership is “a very good indication that he survived 'The Decision' debacle." Thomaselli noted James has done it “by mostly keeping a low profile this season.” Aside from “the occasional spot for his sponsors, including a new State Farm commercial that began airing last month before the playoffs started,” James has “worked behind the scenes.” LRMR CEO Maverick Carter has “orchestrated several deals this year involving Mr. James, almost all of them under the radar with the exception of an agreement for Mr. James to endorse Audemars Piguet watches and timepieces.” James last month “entered into a business partnership with Fenway Sports Management,” where he and Carter acquired an interest in EPL club Liverpool. He will also be “actively involved in a State Farm initiative titled ‘26 Seconds,’ which will use music, sports and video to keep youngsters from dropping out of high school." Tuchman: "He is still definitely in the top few endorsers in all of sports. No doubt about it. His brand is still very strong" (ADAGE.com, 5/18).

TITLE WOULD INCREASE PRESENCE IN CHINA: Zou Marketing Managing Dir Terry Rhoads said that James winning an NBA Championship with the Heat next month would “help add $4 billion in revenue from China for Nike." Rhoads said, “LeBron is white-hot with the Chinese basketball-loving youth, but his popularity and influence outside of that circle is limited. One reason is the lack of titles.” A championship for James “would allow him to take over for” Lakers G Kobe Bryant as the “company’s face in China.” Rhoads said it is “easy to see” Nike’s revenue in China reaching $6B by ’20 (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 5/19).
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