SBD/October 17, 2017/NBA Season Preview

LeBron James Is NBA's Most Marketable Player By Far; Stephen Curry Second

WANT MORE GREAT STORIES LIKE THIS?

CLICK ON ONE OF THESE BUTTONS

ALREADY A
SUBSCRIBER?
SEE IF
YOU LIKE IT
GET IT ALL
(PREMIUM ACCESS)

Cavaliers F LeBron James is by far the NBA’s most marketable player, finishing comfortably ahead of Warriors G Stephen Curry, according to a survey of sports business execs, analysts and media members conducted by THE DAILY. Thunder G Russell Westbrook, Warriors F Kevin Durant and Rockets G James Harden round out the top five, with all five athletes featured in visible campaigns for big national brands. The gap between the top two spots and the rest of the field was significant. Meanwhile, four members from the defending champion Warriors were able to crack into the top 10. Bruin Sports Capital Partner David Abrutyn said, “There is a younger stable of next generation superstars that will no doubt break into this list in the year ahead. But when you have the NBA Finals and all the exposure of the last few years for the Warriors and Cavs, it’s hard not to have a list dominated by those teams’ players.”

RANK
PLAYER
1ST
2ND
3RD
4TH
5TH
TOTAL
%
OF BALLOTS
1
Cavaliers F LeBron James
38
8
1
--
2
227
98%
2
Warriors G Stephen Curry
8
37
3
--
1
198
98%
3
Thunder G Russell Westbrook
3
2
14
20
1
106
80%
4
Warriors F Kevin Durant
--
1
23
6
3
88
66%
5
Rockets G James Harden
--
1
1
13
19
52
68%
6t
Rockets G Chris Paul
--
1
3
5
18
18%
6t
Celtics G Kyrie Irving
--
--
2
4
4
18
20%
8
Clippers F Blake Griffin
--
--
2
1
2
10
10%
9
Warriors G Klay Thompson
--
2
--
--
--
8
4%
10t
Warriors F Draymond Green
--
--
1
1
--
5
4%
10t
Lakers G Lonzo Ball
--
--
--
1
3
5
8%


METHODOLOGY
: The survey was distributed to marketing/branding execs, agencies, sports business professors and basketball media. The 50 respondents listed, in order, the top five most marketable players in the NBA. Points were awarded on a five-point scale, with a player awarded five points for a first-place vote, four points for second place, etc.

KING’S CASTLE: James, repped by Klutch Sports Group’s Rich Paul, has been the face of the NBA for over a decade, winning three NBA Championships and four MVP awards. James in ’15 signed a lifetime contract with Nike in a deal that was worth more than $1B. His other deals include Intel, Beats Electronics, Kia Motors, various Coca-Cola brands, Samsung and Verizon (see a full endorsement profile). He has also been a cultural icon, appearing on-screen in movies like “Trainwreck” and producing TV efforts such as Starz’ basketball comedy “Survivor’s Remorse” and the ABC game show “The Wall.” James also broaches sensitive social topics, famously appearing on stage before the ’16 ESPYs alongside Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul to speak out about police brutality. Scout Sports & Entertainment Exec VP Michael Neuman said James has been “able to share his voice without alienating ardent fans,” and his ESPYs appearance was an “honest moment, beautifully orchestrated, that didn’t draw the NBA into the political storm facing the NFL.” 16W Marketing Partner Steve Rosner said James tops the list because of his “years head start on everyone else in regard to his play, championships, leadership and good image.” ESPN's Amin Elhassan: "By being identified with some of the biggest brands in the world, it makes him more desirable as a marketer."

GOLDEN BOY: Curry (see endorsements) ended last season with his second NBA championship and experienced an equally successful season off the court. Repped by Octagon's Jeff Austin, Curry once again led the way in jersey sales on NBAstore.com April-June, and he boasts the top selling jersey in China as he and his team continue to expand their global reach. Curry also dove into the tech market over the summer, launching The Players Technology Summit with teammate F Andre Iguodala. Engage Marketing Founder, President & Chief Solutions Officer Kevin Adler said, “Curry has the most mass appeal as an athlete-brand. He combines elite athletic performance, family man, charitable and so many other key brand attributes.” Optimum Sports Managing Dir Tom McGovern said Curry playing the guard position makes him "more marketable than big men." McGovern: "His relative size makes him more identifiable. He also has a flare for the dramatic." Holding Curry back from being the league’s most marketable player, says Penn State professor Robert Boland, is the perception of the Warriors as a “super team.” Boland: “Curry is the Warriors’ leader but having Durant, Thompson and Green gives him an extraordinary supporting cast, making his accomplishments perceived a bit differently than James'.” FS1's Chris Broussard said during the Warriors’ 73-win '15-16 season, Curry "became the face of the game, but LeBron took it back when they beat them in the Finals." Broussard believes Curry's shoe deal with Under Armour has also put him at a disadvantage: "Nike has been tremendous in the way they market athletes."

FEELING THE THUNDER: Westbrook (endorsements) last season was able to bring home his first MVP award. Durant’s departure from the Thunder for the Warriors during the '16 offseason opened up the door for Westbrook to take over as the team’s sole leader. His impressive stats last season, including a record 42 triple-doubles, carried over to his success away from the game. Added success as a team could bring even more value to Westbrook's marketability. Repped by Wasserman’s Thad Foucher, Westbrook signed a 10-year extension with Nike’s Jordan Brand last month that will see him release the first signature shoe of his career. Westbrook has long been known for his fashion sense. Last month, he released his first book, “Russell Westbrook: Style Drivers,” and confirmed that he will be releasing his own fashion line. Platinum Rye Dir of Sports Marketing Brad Griffiths: "Russell is a unique personality and the way it comes through on the court is what makes him so marketable. He arrives to the arena and turns heads with his attire. Brands like Jordan and Mountain Dew have done really well in creating material that aligns with Russell’s personality." Intersport Chief Marketing and Client Officer Brian Graybill said Westbrook has established a very “unique, charismatic and complex personality.”

THE SECOND COMING
: Durant (endorsements), repped by Roc Nation Sports' Rich Kleiman, enjoyed his first-ever championship win after joining the Warriors, and his move to the Bay Area has allowed him to connect with Silicon Valley startups. Durant Co. recently cut down on his endorsements to focus on just a handful of deals with companies like Nike and Beats by Dre. However, some observers have villainized him for leaving the Thunder, and this damage to his image may be the reason Durant finds himself positioned behind his former teammate. The Marketing Arm Managing Dir Matt Delzell said, “The move to Golden State has helped his marketability, but hasn’t necessarily helped his likability. Marketability and likability can live independently.” For Durant to jump past Westbrook, Delzell believes he needs to either “win another championship or have at least one of his investments off the court hit it big.” ESPN's Jalen Rose said Durant "went from being on a really good contending team to a championship level team. We see him publicly, how he is with his teammates and how he handles his endorsements now.”

FEAR THE BEARD: Harden (endorsements), repped by Landmark Sports’ Diana Day, enters his sixth season as the face of the Rockets, and the addition of Paul should help the team have more success. Harden was the cover athlete for EA Sports’ “NBA Live 18,” his second appearance on a video game cover after joining Curry and Pelicans C Anthony Davis on 2K Sports’ “NBA 2K16.” In February, Harden and Adidas released the Harden Vol. 1 signature shoe. Harden is the highest-profile NBAer sporting Adidas and has become the face of the shoe company in the U.S. market. Premier Partnerships President & CEO Randy Bernstein said, “His image (beard) has enabled him to be one of the most recognizable faces in all of sports. Combine that with his skill on the court as a top player in the league, and you have a top five personal brand.” He noted Harden spends his offseason in L.A. and is “constantly a target for the paparazzi,” but this is “never the result of negative off-court issues.” The Miami Herald's Manny Navarro on what makes Harden marketable: "The beard. Simple as that. Next to LeBron, he's the most recognizable face in the league." The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor said Harden’s Rockets “could push the Warriors in the playoffs, which could push his brand to the next level."

BEST OF THE REST: Here are the other players who appeared on our survey:

RANK
PLAYER
1ST
2ND
3RD
4TH
5TH
TOTAL
%
OF BALLOTS
12t
Pelicans C Anthony Davis
--
--
1
--
1
4
4%
12t
Bucks F Giannis Antetokounmpo
--
--
--
1
2
4
6%
14
T'Wolves C Karl-Anthony Towns
--
--
--
1
1
3
4%
15t
Thunder F Paul George
--
--
--
1
--
2
2%
15t
Trail Blazers G Damian Lillard
--
--
--
--
2
2
4%
15t
Cavaliers G Dwyane Wade
--
--
--
--
2
2
4%
18
Cavaliers G Derrick Rose
--
--
--
--
1
1
2%
Return to top

Related Topics:

NBA Season Preview

Video Powered By - Castfire CMS Powered By - Sitecore

Report a Bug