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).
The Mets have signed a sponsorship deal with N.Y.-based pharmacy chain Duane Reade for the rest of the '11 season. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the partnership will carry two key elements. The first is an "Honorary Captain" program based around the club's July 1-3 Subway Series games against the Yankees at Citi Field in which fans can enter a sweepstakes at Duane Reade stores and online to be an honorary captain during one of those games. Winning honorary captains will bring out the lineup card on the field and receive four VIP-level tickets. The second is a retail discount effort in which fans will receive special price cuts at Duane Reade stores on days following games in which the Mets hit two or more home runs. A companion to that effort aimed at boosting viewership of Mets games on SNY will also operate by offering Duane Reade coupons at SNY.tv. Though Duane Reade founded in '60 and the Mets in '62, this is the first time the pair have worked together. "Duane Reade is a New York institution, and they're on virtually every corner in town, which given their activation plans, is going to be a great thing," said Mets Exec VP/Business Operations Dave Howard. "They're great marketers and great activators, and we love partners who really activate at retail."
MARKETING DAILY's Karl Greenberg reported Honda "has a big marketing push on deck" for the Indianapolis 500 this year. The company is sponsoring the pre-race show on ESPN and ESPN.com, and it also "has a whole fleet of print, TV, and interactive ads during the coverage." Honda is "running banners on ESPN.com all month, and will expand that to a Web site takeover" on May 28, the day before the race. There also will be print ads and custom creative in Road & Track, SI and USA Today. The campaign includes "two new TV spots directed to regional spot buys" (MARKETING DAILY, 5/20 issue).
PERFECT TIMING: YAHOO SPORTS’ Greg Wyshynski reported Under Armour debuted a 15-second ad on TSN featuring Bruins C Tyler Seguin during Game Two of the Lightning-Bruins Eastern Conference Finals. The ad was shot last summer, and UA Canada Dir of Marketing Corey Friesen said, “We were hanging onto that, assuming he was going to play in the playoffs.” UA had “nine endorsing players in the playoffs,” but Seguin is the only endorser still playing (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/19).
NOTHING BETTER THAN THE REAL THING: Coca-Cola has selected eight Olympic hopefuls to promote its products leading up to the '12 London Games, and Coca-Cola Dir of Olympic Marketing Dina Gerson said that the company "looks for diversity in sport, gender and ethnicity when preparing its roster" of endorsers. It also "takes into consideration public speaking ability, the athletes' story and their potential to medal." However, Gerson noted that medal potential "is not the most important thing." Gerson: "We looked at over 600 athletes and talked to everybody from the U.S. Olympic Committee to NBC to the International Olympic Committee" (ADAGE.com, 5/18).
READY TO RIDE: The Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, which kicks off its '11 season Saturday, has signed new sponsorships with Oakley, Makita Tools, Air National Guard and manufacturer KTM. The deals are collectively valued in the mid-seven figures. The series also renewed partnerships with Rockstar Energy, GoPro and Muscle Milk. The sponsors join the series at a time when it is planning to increase its broadcast exposure. For the first time, Fuel TV will be airing 24 total hours of live coverage of races. The series will have three hours of coverage on NBC and 21 hours of coverage on Speed (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal).