celebrity brandmatch

LeBron James Dances for State Farm

Posted by Shirley Brady on February 4, 2011 01:00 PM

State Farm wants LeBron fans to like its Facebook page to check out its new campaign — fortuitously timed to the epic game he played last night. But can winning games for the Miami Heat override the damage his image suffered last year after he left the Cleveland Cavaliers?

Bleacher Report recently questioned his brand value as a celebrity endorser, writing that King James creates a "marketing dilemma" for sponsors such as McDonald's, Nike, and State Farm, along with his team:

"consumers do not like his new public persona, and polls rank him as one of the most disliked athletes in America. Whether or not that's based on facts or public perception, that's bad for business when you are trying to sell insurance or soda."

That said, America loves a comeback. Interbrand's Patrick Kerns writes, "Winning streaks and stat lines have started dominating the headlines, instead of the “Decision” debacle. LeBron’s on-court performance—and his team’s—has improved, and this is beginning to drive the brand once again. The question now is, will performance be enough?"

What do you think: Has LeBron James redeemed himself in the eyes of fans and brands since his controversial move to Miami?


Gunter Soydanbay Canada says:

I don't. Here is my explanation.

According to the carol Pearson's archetype theory, a great athlete like LeBron James is a "hero brand." The hero archetype must have a story about his journey. What makes a hero admirable is his/her perseverance and his/her ability to stand up to the antagonist. What made Michael Jordan the greatest "hero athlete brand" ever is actually the story of his journey. He stood up against the Bad Boys, then he did it against the Knicks, He won the slam dunk competition twice by beating his best rivals. He even fought against himself to return to NBA. No matter what challenge he took on, he persevered.

Lebron James' case is different. People wrongfully accuse him to be a villain. I don't think so. The way I see it, he took the easy way out. That's a shadow attribute of the hero archetype: to win at all cost. His endorser, Nike, did something similar years ago. It worked with sweatshops. That is the curse of the hero. Jordan managed to keep it under control. James didn't. Therefore, I think no matter how many rings he wins (and he will win a lot, because he is too talented), he will be perceived as a hero that took the easy way. His journey will never be complete. It is a pity because he had a perfect story written for him: Break the curse of a city! That would have been a hero story to be told for generations.

February 5, 2011 10:48 AM #

Peter Idem United States says:

Though I agree with your answer @gunter, I also disagree.

Lebron did have the perfect story written for him, but let's get out of theory land.  It's been less than a year since the whole "decision" debacle and people are still upset with his decision to leave Cleveland.  But in time, people will move on and he will be loved again.  Don't believe me? Ask Kobe Bryant or Mike Vick.

February 6, 2011 12:58 PM #

Gunter Soydanbay Canada says:

You are right Peter. father time heals everything. It will certainly help James too. While I am not familiar with Mike Vick's case, I see Bryant and James as two different stories, with certain similarities. Kobe is a restless athlete, who wanted to be the centre piece of a winning team at all cost. At the end of the day, people don't like him much, but his drive to be the alpha dog is never questioned.
Lebron on the other hand will win multiple rings, break many records and gain some of his popularity back. But, as I tried to explain earlier, the gold standard is Michael Jordan and the legacy of a great athlete like James will be compared against that of Jordan's, just as all boxers are compared to Ali (who was an outlaw-hero archetype). That's why 20 years from now, no matter how many rings he wins, I still think James will be perceived as someone who took the easy way out, not a preferable thing for a hero to have in his resume.

February 6, 2011 01:46 PM #

Gayle Novak United States says:

As a former Clevelander and die-hard, but always disappointed and heart-broken Cleveland sports fan, I'm especially intrigued by the article and your comments. No doubt James had every right to leave; in the end, it was the way he handled that decision that will forever sting Clevelanders. Maybe he intended to spite Danny Gilbert and the Cavs organization, but he really hurt the fans who helped him climb aboard his throne. In the end, I think there will be at least two camps going forward: fans of the game who still believe in loyalty and being a true competitive alpha dog, and that generation of fans who will identify with an athlete who put himself first above the team and city. The former will likely never see him as a "hero"  brand again. The latter may come to perceive him as a new kind of "hero" that was true to himself first and foremost. Time will tell. But something tells me that the marketers currently tapping James to sell product know that people have short memories.

February 7, 2011 02:43 AM #

S. Brady (brandchannel) United States says:

Great perspective; thanks for sharing!

February 7, 2011 12:48 PM #

Comments are closed

elsewhere on brandchannel

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
brandcameo2014 Product Placement Awards
Apple loses its crown to a new #1
Coca-ColaIt's the Journey That Matters:
Coca-Cola Opens Up With Story-Based Web Refresh
debateJoin the Debate
Is product placement a waste of money?
Arthur Chinski and Joshua Mizrahi
Model Behavior? Brands Beware
U.S. Legal Changes Impact Use of Brand Ambassadors
paperCorporate Citizenship in Canada
Fresh thinking from Interbrand
Sheryl Connelly
Sheryl Connelly

Meet Ford's Resident Futurist
Highlighting the Present—and Future—of Branding in Latin America and Iberia