Skip to content

Marketing expert: LeBron can play anywhere

Mar 6, 2010, 3:15 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nba_james1_250.jpgNew Yorkers have the equation backwards: New York needs LeBron James more than he needs New York.

Central to the “LeBron will be a Knick” delusion is that he needs to be in New York to be a “Global Icon.” That one cannot market oneself properly unless you are near Madison Avenue and pop-up restaurants.

That may be generally true, but Phil de Picciotto of Octagon said at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference that is not the case with LeBron (as tweeted by CNBC’s Darren Rovell).

“He’s the one example where it really doesn’t matter.”

Why should you listen to this guy? Because he’s a sports personality marketing guru. He made Mia Hamm the sensation of women’s soccer. He made Anna Kournikova rich despite her being a middling tennis player on tour. His company handles Chris Paul and others now. He is on everyone’s most influential people in sports list. He is smarter than you.

And he gets that speed of communication is shrinking the world. I can (and do) follow Newcastle United soccer from my home, watch some matches on my computer. The news shows up on my desktop every day (we’ll be back in the Premiership next season, baby!). Marketing for a team — or a player like LeBron — works the same way.

In this environment — one that sees walls are broken down and video of NBA games can be viewed from Cleveland to Shanghai — where LeBron James plays is not relevant. His endorsement deals aren’t regional, they are international. Nike will market him in India and China regardless of where he plays. People are desperate to reach out to him now, more doors are not going to open because he is in NYC or LA.

Just like on the court, LeBron is the exception to the rule. And that means New York needs him far more than he needs them.

  1. jonathan - Mar 6, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    The city doesn’t matter as much these days but the team he plays for can have an effect on global awareness. Fortunately for the Cavs, there are only a select few NBA teams with a global footprint and of them, only the Lakers have enough of one to make a measurable difference in Lebron’s global endorsement appeal. And despite recent reports, Lebron to the Lakers is still a very unlikely scenario.

  2. bitmatt - Mar 6, 2010 at 6:38 PM

    jonathan- The Cavaliers now have significant ties to China via new minority ownership conglomerate. This Chinese group has about a 15% stake in the Cavs, their marketing and players, including LeBron James. This was yet another sharp move by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to further deepen the ties of the Cavs organization and LeBron’s crew & Nike, as they have been aggressively striving to grow his appeal in China for years now.
    Also, the Nets will obviously be courting international appeal with new Russian ownership moving in.

  3. Sonics Fan - Mar 6, 2010 at 8:25 PM

    If that Idiot that owns the Clippers had any brains he would go after Lebron, it would immediately make the Clippers seem more relevant. Lebron could name his price and conditions there. Well, I guess he could do that anywhere! Maybe he’ll come to Seattle and start his own team, go Sonics. Yes, it still kills me not to see them play.

  4. Brent - Mar 6, 2010 at 8:47 PM

    I mean, it’s been rough for Peyton Manning being stuck out in Indianapolis. That guy can’t seem to buy himself televised airtime!!!
    Also, what part of Manhattan does Tiger Woods live in?

  5. jonathan - Mar 7, 2010 at 4:12 AM

    bitmatt – But Lebron’s not the most popular star in China: Kobe is (excluding Yao obviously). And that is in large part to the fact that while playing for the Lakers leads a lot of people in the United States to be biased against him, that is not the case in China. The Lakers are a global brand like no other team in the NBA. And the Chinese consortium is not opening up any new markets, and I guarantee it investment is only in effect if Lebron stays. If he goes, then the Chinese group goes.

  6. Wizard of Ozola - Mar 7, 2010 at 8:15 PM

    AT THE WALTON BUSINESS SCHOOL, WE PROFESSORS HAVE RUN THE LEBRON QUESTION THROUGH OUR SUPERCOMPUTERS AND HAVE THE FINAL RESULTS :
    FIRST: CALIFORNIA HAS A MUCH LARGER POPULATION OF ASIANS THAN NEW YORK DOES. TWO. LEBRON SAT OUT THE SLAM DUNK CONTEST, BIG MISTAKE FOR MARKETING. THREE, NIKE HAS NOT DONE MAREKTING IN CHINA THAT IMG HAS. NIKE IS IN FRONT IN JAPAN. FOUR, LEBRON WILL HAVE THE $$ TO BUY HIS OWN TEAM IN 2 MORE YEARS. THEN HE CAN BUILD A TEAM AROUND HIM WITH CRIS PAUL, YAO MING AND CARMELO ANTHONY AS STARTERS. MJ WILL HAVE TO CRY IN HIS SOUP.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Handing out NBA's postseason awards
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Wade (3853)
  2. D. Williams (3807)
  3. L. James (3767)
  4. K. Love (3748)
  5. S. Curry (3546)
  1. C. Anthony (3324)
  2. R. Rondo (3154)
  3. R. Westbrook (3060)
  4. G. Dragic (3045)
  5. K. Durant (2947)