All the marketing polls reflect that LeBron James clearly hurt himself with the way "The Decision" went down in July.
But business statistics don't lie.
An extensive survey of retailers by CNBC reflected that many considered the LeBron 8, which hit stores last week, a good sell. Another described sales as average, while one retailer said sales were miserable.
Matt Powell, analyst for SportsOneSource, a market retail tracking firm, said he spoke to three retailers who told him this was on pace to be their best-selling LeBron shoe yet. Powell also said that sales of NBA jerseys over the last four weeks are up more than 30 percent, thanks to people buying LeBron, Wade and Bosh jerseys.
"The only thing that really matters for LeBron, from a marketing perspective, is what happens at the cash register and so far it looks good," Powell said.
Limited edition colorways are expected to generate buzz and sell out — like the special edition "South Beach" version of the LeBron 8, which were quickly snapped up by collectors and fans last month in Miami. But marketers are more interested in how the main shoe, of which retailers have purchased the largest quantities, will sell in the post "Decision" marketplace.
It's always hard to gauge sales of a shoe since Nike doesn't release the quantity of shoes that it makes or sales figures, but Nike spokesman Derek Kent did tell CNBC that the company was happy with the early returns of the LeBron 8.
"We are pleased with the positive reaction to the LeBron 8 and the new 'Rise' campaign," Kent said. "The consumer response has been strong as we continue to build momentum entering an exciting NBA season."
Retailers, scared to be cut off by the world's largest shoe and apparel brand, rarely disclose numbers either. But anecdotal evidence from people that have seen the first sales numbers seems to suggest it's not as bad for LeBron as some have believed.
One retailer, which has stores in Ohio, shockingly told CNBC that LeBron shoes were selling despite him leaving for Miami.
It's not great everywhere. Another retailer described sales as "predictably disappointing."
"Nike's new LeBron ad was brilliant," the retailer said. "Everyone saw it in 20 minutes. The problem is that the ad was more about resurrecting LeBron instead of showing consumers the shoe."
Besides the criticism from "The Decision," the LeBron 8 had several obstacles entering the marketplace. One was clearly price. At $160, the shoe is one of the highest priced premium basketball shoes on the market.
Another concern is the weight of LeBron's shoe, which could be considered a turnoff as the focus moves to lighter weight shoes. While the shoe does feature Nike technology like Flywire and a full length air bag, it is heavier than other shoes that have hit shelves.
After finishing a seven-year, $100 million deal, James signed an extension with Nike earlier this year.
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