SBD/July 14, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

LeBron Goes Home: James Scores PR Goodwill For Way He Announced Cavs Move

Many writers lauded James' handling of the situation this time around
LeBron James’ announcement Friday that he would return to the Cavaliers was "executed flawlessly," as it was "everything the original Decision wasn't," according to Chris Chase of USA TODAY. James' 965-word letter on SI.com was "pitch-perfect" and proved to be "a perfect forum to deliver the news, devoid of cameras, bright lights, Jim Gray, Kanye West and schoolchildren being used as props" (USATODAY.com, 7/11). On Long Island, Neil Best wrote James' announcement through SI was "a model of class, grace and humility." His "elegant execution" of the letter made his decision "a public relations slam dunk" (NEWSDAY, 7/12). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote James this time made his decision "with class" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/12). In N.Y., Scott Cacciola in a front-page piece noted James' handling of his return to Cleveland "was all in stark contrast to the way he announced his departure" in '10 (N.Y. TIMES, 7/12). The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan said the letter demonstrates the "human growth of a person before our very eyes, a prominent athlete, who has really thought out a lot of things." Ryan: "This is a great, savvy PR move for him as well, for his image" ("PTI," ESPN, 7/11). CBSSPORTS.com's Matt Moore wrote James "came across as humble in his Sports Illustrated revelation." The choice in "how to reveal the decision, in an essay and not a television interview, looks good on him." James "legitimately came across as having matured" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/11). 

ABOUT FACE: In Chicago, Rick Morrissey wrote under the header, "It's A Little Harder To Hate LeBron James Now." James' announcement "demonstrated courage, loyalty and a nobility not often found in the NBA" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/13). A Cleveland PLAIN DEALER editorial states James "may be one of the most enigmatic superstars in the history of sport." James throughout his career has been a "Hero. Villain. Loser. Winner. Good guy. Egomaniac." After Friday's decision, "you can now add mature adult" (CLEVELAND.com, 7/11). But in N.Y., Ross Douthat wrote of James' announcement, "I don’t want to make too much of an exhortation that is, of course, partially just a rich athlete’s brand-managing PR." (N.Y. TIMES, 7/13).

JOHNNY AND THE KING: In Cleveland, Tom Reed wrote James' return and the Browns drafting QB Johnny Manziel will "afford the town, teams and firms they represent ample exposure and unique cross-promotional opportunities." The biggest benefactor might be LRMR Management, which reps both James and Manziel. Nike, who sponsors both athletes, is "another clear winner, as is the city itself which serves as the backdrop to one of nation's most compelling sports stories" of '14. The chance for James to "share the spotlight" with Manziel and "consolidate LRMR's marketing base was presumably well down the list" of his reasons for returning to Cleveland. However, the "chances for cross promotion are numerous." Reed: "The thought of Johnny Football and King James leading Cleveland teams into title contention was far fetched six months ago. Now they are here, part of an irresistible and highly marketable sports narrative" (CLEVELAND.com, 7/12).

ONE-MAN ECONOMIC ENGINE
: In Cleveland, Jeff Darcy wrote James "isn't just a returning NBA MVP, he's a returning economic MVP." He is "a walking economic boom." Cleveland is "not just the Rock 'n' Roll capital, it's now the t-shirt capital" (CLEVELAND.com, 7/13). Also in Cleveland, Janet Cho noted Fresh Brewed Tees, which had "been touting its 'For6given: The Kingdom Restored' T-shirts in anticipation" of James' return to the Cavaliers, "had problems keeping up its website" Friday. Frontier Airlines "got into the act, too," offering 23% off the retail price of flights to and from Cleveland Hopkins Int'l Airport "to passengers who book their tickets at flyfrontier.com with the code 'LEBRON.'" Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams "tweeted congratulations with two paint swatches, a gold hue called 'Kingdom Gold' and a wine one called 'Show Stopper,' with the words: 'Nice color choice, @KingJames'" (CLEVELAND.com, 7/11).

BRAND EXTENSION: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ben Cohen wrote James' decision, and the "incredible amount of interest in it, may have even wider implications off the court, as it reflects the increasing value of superstardom in the NBA's new era." Players are becoming "more conscious of their personal brands, which is evident everywhere from their off-season contract negotiations to their pregame fashion choices." Former NBAer Grant Hill said when was a rookie in '94, "I don't even think I knew what the word 'brand' meant." But he said players today are "more aware of their power, and they're willing in a subtle -- and sometimes not so subtle -- way to use to that to their advantage" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/12).
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