Nike moments after Heat F LeBron James was named the NBA Finals MVP on Thursday “released a spectacular commercial to commemorate it,” according to Sean Highkin of USATODAY.com. The 60-second spot “features an answering machine belonging to LeBron, with Drake, Dr. Dre, Warren Buffett, Bill Russell and others leaving him congratulatory messages.” Nike has “set up an answering machine for fans to leave LeBron messages of their own.” The number is 305-767-2226 (USATODAY.com, 6/21). Samsung aired an ad on ABC congratulating James in the first commercial slot after the game (THE DAILY). ALL GROWN UP: THE POST GAME wrote, “Just as we've seen LeBron James' game mature before our eyes, we've also witnessed the ebbs and flows of his commercial evolution as he has transformed from a teenage phenom to a global sensation.” James' decision to leave the Cavaliers for the Heat in ’10 “sparked this unforgettable ‘What should I do?’ commercial,” which is “one of the most popular and controversial athlete advertisements in recent years.” But as James “evolved in Miami, from playing angry to playing happy, his commercials took a turn for the brighter.” A Samsung spot which debuted at the beginning of the ‘12-13 season “showed a lighter side of James, one that some people were unaccustomed to seeing.” James' newest commercial for Beats by Dre features “a moment of levity , when the music stops midway through the commercial so James can accept a call from Dr. Dre himself.” The commercial is “somewhat of an amalgamation of James' ad history,” as it “combines his image as a basketball prodigy with the inspirational tone of the ‘LeBron's Day’ ad.” For “good measure, there's even a moment of comedy” (THEPOSTGAME.com, 6/20).
A JAMES OF ALL TRADES:Baker Street Advertising Senior VP & Exec Creative Dir Bob Dorfman in his annual post-NBA Finals marketability report notes James "could add another $5-7M a year to his current $40M in yearly off-the-court income" following his second straight NBA title. Dorfman: "The LeBron brand is global, his celebrity transcends sport, and his appeal crosses all demographics." Heat G Dwyane Wade "may not be as viable a long-term investment as LeBron," but if Wade's "health holds up and the Heat's Big Three stay together, he's definitely a worthwhile marketing spend" (THE DAILY). FORBES’ Kurt Badenhausen writes James “will never be” Michael Jordan, but he is “reaching extraordinary levels on and off the court.” James has “dominated play on the court the past three years, but his impact on the business of the NBA and his partners is just as massive.” He is the NBA’s “top shoe salesman and no other active player is close.” SportsOneSource noted that Nike “sold $300 million of James’ signature shoes" in the U.S. in '12. Lakers G Kobe Bryant “ranks No. 2" with $50M in '12. The Heat on the road “live up to the ‘Heatles’ nickname James gave them" in '11, as the team’s 41 away games “played to an NBA-best 100.5% capacity this year.” The NBA reports that James’ jersey “has been the NBA’s top seller four times.” This year he “slipped to No. 2” behind Knicks F Carmelo Anthony. James also has “plenty of sponsor deals including Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Samsung Electronics, Dunkin’ Donuts, Beats headphones and Upper Deck.” His endorsement take is “tops in the NBA and twice as much as any player besides Bryant” (FORBES.com, 6/21).
While legal experts expect Judge Claudia Wilken, who is ruling on the O'Bannon v. NCAA case, will “in fact certify the class, some of her questions Thursday signaled she might be holding reservations,” according to Stewart Mandel of SI.com. The case originated from former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon's “frustration at seeing his avatar used in one of EA's video games without his permission.” But only about “the last 15 minutes of Thursday's hearing dealt with video games.” Wilken was “far more concerned with the NCAA's contention that the plaintiffs unfairly ‘changed their theory’ behind the case last year when they broadened it to include athletes' rights to a share of the television revenue generated from their game broadcasts.” The notion that “certain members of the proposed class might benefit more than others is one of the NCAA's chief arguments against certification.” Mandel noted a “significant moment occurred late in the hearing when Wilken raised the topic of injunctive relief (as opposed to damages), which would more directly impact current athletes.” Wilken noted to plaintiffs' attorney Michael Hausfeld that he “didn't have any current students” as part of the class. Considering EA Sports' “once-prominent role in the case, it was interesting that lawyers for that company and fellow co-defendant CLC were only briefly questioned at the end.” EA attorney Robert Van Nest “essentially argued that the company should no longer be included in the suit because the plaintiffs' case has evolved into a crusade against NCAA amateurism policy.” Wilken sometime in the next few weeks “will issue her class certification ruling, at which point we'll get a better gauge of just how radically that business might change” (SI.com, 6/20). The AP’s Paul Elias noted Wilken “ordered O’Bannon’s lawyers to revise the lawsuit to fix some legal technicalities, including explicating adding current players to the lawsuit.” Hausfeld said that he will “file a new lawsuit that includes current players, but will seek to keep their names confidential” (AP, 6/20).
CHANGES ON THE HORIZON? ESPN.com’s Tom Farrey noted Wilken also “suggested the sides work with a mediator, another good sign for the plaintiffs.” If O'Bannon and “the other named plaintiffs are allowed to invite thousands of current and former players into the lawsuit ... potential damages to the NCAA and its co-defendants from an adverse decision could grow into the billions.” Even if “they aren't, scenarios exist that still could force the NCAA to revise its ban on athletes receiving more than an athletic scholarship for their services.” Farrey wrote, “If you thought [NCAA President Mark Emmert] has lost friends in high places lately, just wait if university presidents have to address an issue they've been able to duck for, well, forever.” Farrey: “It takes a brave judge to want to shake up a popular institution, even if it's seen to be in violation of the law.” But by “laying out its case this early in the process, the NCAA is gambling that it also hasn't revealed critical flaws in its argument” (ESPN.com, 6/20). Marquette University National Sports Law Institute Dir Matthew Mitten said that the NCAA “could face foreboding consequences should the case be turned into a class-action lawsuit.” But he added that the NCAA “could take solace in prior rulings that have given the organization wide powers to make rulings to preserve the amateur status of players.” Mitten said, "I’m not one who believes this case is a potential earthquake. Student athletes are already compensated with scholarships that have the economic value of four or five years of college" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/21). ESPN's Rod Gilmore said, “If they ultimately have to share that money, it's probably going to happen years from now and it will be money that likely goes into a trust that is paid to the players over time after they are out of their eligibility, and that money will come away from coaches and administrators more than likely” ("College Football Live," ESPN2, 6/20).
Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez has not been ruled out as a suspect in a murder investigation, and FOXSPORTS.com's Ross Jones reported his endorsers have "let it be known" they are tracking the situation. CytoSport, the maker of Muscle Milk, "signed Hernandez before the start of the 2012 season," and currently "will not comment" on the matter. A company spokesperson said, "We will continue to monitor it closely." Hernandez also is endorsed by Puma, and a spokesperson said, "We are aware of the situation and have no comment at this time." Hernandez "just inked this deal in April and agreed to a two-year partnership" (FOXSPORTS.com, 6/20). Forbes' Darren Heitner wrote on his Twitter feed, "Pic of Aaron Hernandez in Boston Herald shows risk brands take in entering endorsement agreements."
RUNNING ON EMPTY: SI.com's Tim Layden reported Silver Medal-winning U.S. runner Leo Manzano has "no sponsors at all" 10 months after "winning a truly historic medal while running under Nike sponsorship" at the '12 London Games. It is a "cliché that Olympians will automatically cash in on their Olympic success." Some do, but "many do not." Manzano's agent Ricky Rimms last fall "entered negotiations with Nike for a new deal for Manzano," but in November they "fell through." Simms said, "Unfortunately, the market is not strong at this moment and the best offer was not meeting his expectations" (SI.com, 6/20).
BEING HEARD: The AP reported Broncos QB Peyton Manning and ESPN's Kara Lawson are "taking part in a new commercial due out nationally this fall hoping to bring awareness to Alzheimer's disease and support the Pat Summitt Foundation's push to find a cure." Lawson "filmed her scenes in the Lady Vols' locker room on the Tennessee campus Monday, while Manning shot his portion Tuesday at Neyland Stadium in the locker room" (AP, 6/19).