By: Joe Greco
LeBron James is arguably the best basketball player of this generation, but many consider LeBron to be just as good of a businessman off the court. Since entering the league in 2003, LeBron’s influence on the game has been tremendous. The four-time league MVP and two time NBA champ has been able to use his high profile as a major advantage. LeBron does this through endorsements such as Nike, McDonalds, Microsoft, Cub Cadet (lawn mower maker company), State Farm, and many other endorsements. LeBron signed a seven year ninety million dollar deal with Nike even before getting drafted and was able to earn forty three million dollars through endorsements after his first four seasons in the NBA. LeBron’s ability to market himself has always been his biggest strength. In 2006, James surprised many people when he decided to leave his agent and start his own marketing firm. James, and three of his hometown friends who had no college degrees and no experience founded the LRMR management company. This was certainly a bold move for the then twenty one year old, but James and his partners put together a plan marketing strategy that proved to work wonderfully. This five step marketing strategy is: call your own shots, build a close knit team, negotiate everything, take calculated risks, and lastly question the norm and defy convention.
- Call your own shots– one of the few times James went the traditional route was when he signed with an agent right out of high school. He quickly realized he wanted to call his own shots and be in charge, so he left his agent to start his own marketing firm. He was quoted from ESPN that his desire of being in control came from being fatherless as a child; through this step LeBron has been able to understand the power of controlling his own destiny, which has been extremely profitable for him throughout his career.
- Build a close-knit team- Surrounding himself with trustworthy people has always been a big deal to LeBron. Instead of searching for marketing geniuses and Ivy League grads when building LRMR, he chose to use his friends.
- Negotiate everything: involves exercising leverage, taking your time to make the right decision, and maximizing every marketing opportunity possible.
- Take calculated risk: Smart risks can open the door for great opportunity.
- Question the norm and defy convention: LeBron has always been a leader, that’s why a lot of business people look for him for guidance. His company is always marching to its own beat, it is known for taking risk
In 2010, LeBron James used his free agency to market himself to full capacity. He was a free agent for the first time in his career and wanted to get every dime out of it, after announcing his own special TV program titled “LeBron James: The decision” which aired on ESPN. During this, he announced on live TV in front of millions who tuned in from around the world that he will be signing with the Miami Heat. This was extremely controversial and his reputation did take a hit, but his wallet did not. The move to Miami ended up being the best move business-wise he had ever made. Although he did take a pay cut basketball-wise, his marketing popularity was at an all time high. He began to accept his “villain role” which produced many products such as his shoes, clothing lines, and other basketball gear. A year after signing with the Miami Heat, James and his marketing firm partnered with Fenway Sports Management, which presented him with many new marketing opportunities and also netted him a seven-figure payout. This gave LeBron the opportunity to market himself globally, especially in Asia where he has done various commercials, marketed his shoe line, and even played a few pick up games in China.
There are often many opinions about LeBron James, but one thing is a fact: he is a smart businessman who knows how to market himself. During the 2013-2014 season LeBron made seventeen million dollars from the Miami Heat, but fifty two million dollars off endorsements. He has done a great job at following his marketing strategy and maximizing his marketing opportunities, as he did once again this past summer with his return to the Cleveland Cavilers this past summer. As he was able to win the love back of many basketball fans and sports fans in general, this has helped him earn $450 million dollars over his eleven-year professional career. At the age of thirty, LeBron shows no signs of slowing down on and off the court, as he will continue marketing himself through the course of his entire life. LeBron the businessman is just as good as LeBron the basketball player.
Badenhauson, Kurt. “How LeBron James Has Earned $450M During His NBA Career.” Forbes Magazine. 9 July 2014. Print.
Elkins, Kathleen. “5 Strategies LeBron James Used to Become the NBA’s Most Influential Player. Businessinsider.com. 13 Feb. 2015. Web. <http://www.businessinsider.com/success-strategies-of-lebron-james-2015-2>.