SBD/June 25, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Heat's NBA Championship To Elevate LeBron James' Marketability

James could be one of most sought after endorsers with succesful London Games
With the Heat winning the NBA Championship, several marketing observers weigh in on the off-the-court opportunities facing the team. N.Y.-based sports marketing exec Robert Tuchman said the title win is going to lift F LeBron James “into the endorsement stratosphere where only [Broncos QB] Peyton Manning lives."  AD AGE's Rich Thomaselli noted James reportedly makes about $30M in endorsements, but Tuchman said he could make a "minimum" 30% to 40% in addition to that amount. Baker Street Advertising Exec Creative Dir Bob Dorfman estimates that “nets out to somewhere between" $9M and $12M. Dorfman said that James' endorsement portfolio “still has room for a luxury automobile, telecom or financial institution, and that he will benefit greatly by an even higher-profile stage -- playing for Team USA in the London Olympics barely a month after winning the NBA title.” Dorfman: "He's about to expose his brand to an international market. China is booming right now; lots of money to be made there. I also think his team is looking at equity and ownership deals rather than standard pitchman opportunities" (ADAGE.com, 6/22). FORBES' Tom Van Riper noted James “rakes in about" $40M annually in endorsements. He ranked first among team sport players on Forbes’ recent list of highest-earning athletes, and fourth overall. But Dorfman “figures that James could easily add to his endorsement dough" by about $10M (FORBES.com, 6/22).

BREAKING BARRIERS: Nike on Thursday after Heat-Thunder NBA Finals Game Five “rushed out a spot” called "The Ring Maker." The 60-second ad “shows a jeweler crafting a championship ring” for James, while “highlights -- and lowlights -- of his career play on a TV in the background” (ADAGE.com, 6/22). On Long Island, Bobby Bonett wrote Nike “nailed the commercial" (NEWSDAY.com, 6/22). Meanwhile, the AP's Tim Reynolds noted James “ended a nearly two-month break from social media early Friday, posting a 50-second video to thank fans for both their support and their patience.” James now has “just over 5 million followers,” and is the “second U.S.-based athlete to cross the 5-million-follower mark” after TNT analyst and former NBAer Shaquille O'Neal (AP, 6/22).

HOT ON THE MARKET: In Ft. Lauderdale, Doreen Hemlock noted Heat fans “turned out in droves Friday to buy 2012 NBA Champions gear.” Dick’s Sporting Goods Marketing Manager Kim Freeman said, "We had a line out the door at Pembroke Pines. We had people traveling 60 miles to the store, just to get their T-shirts." Freeman said that Dick's Sporting Goods “opened its five South Florida stores right after the Heat won, stayed open until about 2 a.m. and then, reopened at 6 a.m. to meet demand from fans” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 6/24). Online retailer Fanatics experienced its best NBA merchandise sales for NBAStore.com, Fanatics.com and FansEdge.com following the Heat’s win. In the first 12 hours after the championship game, sales of NBA merchandise equaled nearly all of last year’s total sales in the first 24 hours following the Mavericks' NBA Championship. Revenue from merchandise sales by the end of the day Friday surpassed seven figures, exceeding sales following the Lakers’ title in ’10. Fanatics shipped about 70% of orders to locations outside of Florida (THE DAILY).

SAY UNCLE: Meanwhile, in N.Y., Benjamin Hoffman wrote the “breakout star” of this year’s NBA Finals was Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving, who doubles as Uncle Drew in Pepsi Max commercials. More than 11.7 million people went online to “find out who Uncle Drew actually was.” The ads and video “became a viral phenomenon largely through word-of-mouth" and the effort has yielded a 98% like-rate on YouTube. Irving said, “I’m not even Kyrie Irving anymore. I’m Uncle Drew.” Hoffman noted other than a “takeover advertisement on ESPN.com, nothing is planned right now” for additional Pepsi commercials (N.Y. TIMES, 6/24).
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