This post is a follow-up to what I wrote yesterday about ESPN’s insanely hyped-up hour-long “special” on LeBron’s big decision.
While I am a sports enthusiast, I admit there are countless more dire issues to tend to in our world right now. (Hey – have they plugged that oil leak in the Gulf yet?) But – this was an interesting ‘event’ that touched on so many issues in the advertising/marketing/media industry.
I want to share a couple of posthumous thoughts about LeBrand, LeBron James, Cleveland (the city), ESPN, and the ‘supporters’ of last night’s ESPN special – and how marketing and a local economy are all intertwined in this distasteful mess.
1. LeBrand. Whoever is working behind the scenes to promote the “King James” brand certainly did an efficient job building up the hype to last nights TV special. For a week, ESPN spokespeople reiterated that there has never been anything like the press conference/interview we were all about to watch. Never before had one pro NBA player’s decision to further his career with another team been so crucial, so intense, so drawn-out. But that’s because King James is unprecedented, adjective, adjective, and adjective. Hype hype hype. LeBrand has been created, hyped, and positioned very well.
2. LeBron. If you watched the program last night, and you saw the 25 year-old professional athlete walk into the oddly lit gym in the middle of Ohio, wearing jeans, Timberland boots, and a plaid button-up shirt, and then heard him interject a million “uhms” into the answers he gave to the softball questions he was tossed, you likely realized that LeBrand is indeed a lot of hype, and LeBron James is just a dude. Sure, he plays a sport really, really well. But he’s also simply a person. Neither advertisers, sponsors, ESPN, or LeBron himself should pretend he’s anything more than that. (Why? Because when advertisers and the masses start treating their sports stars like they’re superhuman gods, well, the results look like Tiger Woods. That’s why.)
3. Cleveland. While LeBron/LeBrand was certainly a revenue generator for the city of Cleveland and the Cavaliers franchise, the city/state have a lot more to worry about than one arguably narcissistic pro athlete and the revenue his brand brings in. Cleveland and the Cavaliers simply need to rebuild – their team and their local economy – on resources more stable than one human being’s athletic skills.
Not that it truly helps/hurts Cleveland’s economy, but LeBron could have done his home state a favor and held a more tasteful, less-hyped/less painful press conference to announce his departure. But he didn’t, which leads me to point 4.
4. The Sponsors. I felt like last night’s hour-long ESPN special was entirely created by the “sponsors”. The show was dubbed “The Decision” and sponsored by Bing, the decision engine. Vitamin Water at one point presented itself as “The Decision Water.” Pretty blatant.
I wondered if the show was entirely the sponsors’ idea. Did LeBron have any doubts about going along with the program, and thus dragging his home state through the proverbial mud? Or did he have to, to maintain contracts?
Did the entire production result in positive exposure for LeBrand and sponsors like Bing and Vitamin Water?
I have my own opinions – but would rather hear what others think. Do you think it’s ethical as an advertiser to create content and news events like this? Do you think ESPN was right to allow it? What do you think about LeBrand? Did last night’s media event hurt LeBron’s LeBrand?
Sound off – share your thoughts.
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