SBD/June 2, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

LeBron's Move To Miami Proving To Be A Success Both On And Off The Court

James' No. 6 Heat jersey is the best seller in the NBA this season
The Heat are three wins away from their second NBA title, and it is "hard to deny" that LeBron James' decision to join the franchise last summer "has been a success" both on and off the court, according to Harvey Araton of the N.Y. TIMES. NBA TV ratings "have soared on the backs of James and the Heat," and his No. 6 jersey is the "leader in league merchandising sales." Fenway Sports Management President Sam Kennedy, whose Boston-based firm became a corporate partner of James' in April, noted that the Heat star has 6.7 million "likes" on his Facebook page. By comparison, FSM-owned EPL club Liverpool has 5.6 million, and the Red Sox have 2.5 million. The partnership began "not long before James and the Heat knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs in the second round," and in effect, James "won on the court, and off, adding to the notion that he is now unstoppable." Kennedy: "The local media and fans were very resentful. Listen, I grew up in Boston as a Red Sox and Celtics fan, and the irony of the partnership was not lost on us. But this was an opportunity to partner with one of the most powerful athletes and one with incredible reach, globally." Araton notes while it is "likely that more or even most fans will root" for the Mavericks to beat the Heat in the NBA Finals, James "has no doubt impressed younger fans with his audacity and defiance." Still, there "is a cost for James in all of this." A recent survey from Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling revealed that "support for James has steadily eroded in the Cleveland area since last summer, even among African-Americans." The latest poll shows that 49% "had an unfavorable view of James," compared with 23% favorable (N.Y. TIMES, 6/2).

GET 'EM WHILE THEY'RE HOT: In Ft. Lauderdale, Doreen Hemlock notes TV viewers are likely to see more commercials featuring James and Heat G Dwyane Wade "during the next two weeks of the NBA Finals -- and not only during the games themselves." Sports marketers said that companies "score extra points when celebrities in their ads are hot, and that means a chance to cash in for ... other businesses that feature the Heat stars in their ads by airing those commercials more often on different channels." During Tuesday's Mavericks-Heat Game One, James appeared in ads for Sprite and McDonald's, while T-Mobile ran a spot with Wade. Hemlock notes South Florida companies are "boosting local ads with Heat stars too." The Warren Henry Automotive Group said yesterday that it is "stepping up ads" with Heat F Chris Bosh on local TV (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 6/2).
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