The debate is still buzzing in our office over whether or not Blake Griffin deserved to win this year's NBA Slam Dunk contest. But one thing that can't be debated, Kia appears to be the big winner of the night. With the NBA's fanhood reaching Jordan-like levels, this year's 'AllStar Saturday Night'? (Skills Challenge, Three Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest) was the most watched in the event's 26 year history according to TNT, drawing 8.1 million total viewers (5.1 million households and a 4.4 rating). The broadcast peaked at 10.4 total viewers while the Crenshaw Elite Choir sang 'I Believe I Can Fly'? as Griffin leaped over the hood of a Kia Optima for his final dunk of the night. CNBC's Darren Rovell reported earlier today that consideration for Kia spiked significantly with Edmunds.com reporting a 20% increase in consideration for Kia on the day after the Slam Dunk contest compared to an average Sunday. Consumers were twice as likely (104%) to consider buying the Optima Sedan ' the specific vehicle that Griffin dunked over. And let's be clear, this was very much a planned product integration. CNBC reports that the arrangement was made weeks before the contest between Kia, Kia's Agency IMG, and Griffin's management company. Rovell reported that 'As part of the deal, Griffin and Kia agreed to have a more formal relationship if the dunk was pulled off and he won the contest, which he did.'? So not only has Griffin re-energized one of the most miserable NBA franchises in the league this season (I'm eagerly anticipating seeing the 'Blakers'? play the Celtics in a few weeks) and taken home the 'Sprite Slam Dunk Championship'? trophy, but he's also secured a new endorsement deal. I look forward to seeing the Griffin Kia commercials, and I can't wait to see the official sales data for Optima's purchased in the month after the dunk contest. I'm also looking forward to the copycat dunk videos on YouTube.
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!