Reverberations from ‘The Decision’?


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What may prove to be the most ‘decisive’? moment of LeBron James’ life has passed. The buzz has died down a bit, and to a smaller degree, the outrage has even started to lessen. But, I’ve been wondering from a marketer’s POV, what was the immediate impact of LeBron’s choice besides the $6MM salary cut, the burning jerseys in Ohio and the catalogs of negative commentary?

#1 ‘ People Watched

In a media world fueled primarily by ratings, The Decision delivered as 9.95 million people tuned in, according to Nielsen ratings. That’s the highest rating of this calendar year for ESPN for a non-NFL broadcast according to the Wall Street Journal, which compared the broadcast’s 9.6 rating with other recent notable athlete interviews. ‘[It] dwarfed other athlete-related spectacles. ESPN’s telecast of Tiger Woods’s first public comments about his marital infidelities scored a 1.3 rating, while its exclusive March interview with him posted a 0.4 rating. ESPN’s interview last February with Yankees star and admitted steroid user Alex Rodriguez generated a 0.9 rating.’?

#2 ‘ LeBron = Money

The biggest winners of the LeBrocalypse were clearly the Miami Heat whose season ticket allotment sold out before LeBron even sat down with Jim Gray, but they’re not the only ones who benefitted financially form the spectacle. The New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls both sold nearly 3,000 new season tickets before the announcement with many of these attributed to the ‘maybe’? of LeBron joining their team. Even the Cavs took steps to ensure they would fill seats by requiring current season tickets holders to re-up for the 2010/2011 in March. Months before the Decision was made.

Additionally, the week after he signed, CNBC reported that ‘James’ Heat No. 6 jersey was the most popular seller, with jerseys being ordered in all 50 states (yes, including Ohio) and 26 countries.’?

And, we can’t dismiss that LeBron raised nearly $3MM for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America through paid advertisements from sponsors including McDonalds, the University of Phoenix, Bing and Vitaminwater.

#3 ‘ The LeBron Brand May Not Have Suffered’?¬¶ As Much As We Think

I know a lot of other AMPers will argue this point, but according to the same CNBC article, James has come out of the Decision as ‘more influential’? with ‘the population [being] more aware of him in general’? as determined by a Celebrity Davie-Brown Index poll. Granted his popularity among those who previously knew him has fallen:

  • Appeal rating went from 71.5% to  60.5%
  • Opinion of him as a trendsetter from 65.2% to 64.6%
  • Opinion of him as a trustworthy figure from 56.6% to 53.0%

But, LeBron’s marks as a viable endorser did not significantly fall – from 69.9% to 67.6% of the population.

So, from my perspective (and I will caveat that I was fully caught up in the spectacle), LeBron definitely made a bad ‘decision’? on how to make his announcement, but the ‘decision’? itself looks like it may be the right one for him to grow his brand. As evidenced above, there’s no question he has the audience, can generate funds and he is still a viable endorser. The only question, is he destined to be a NBA champion?

*Blogger Disclosure: I firmly believe that the Celtics Big Three can take out Miami’s. See you in the playoffs LeBron!

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