LeBron James' Marketing Might Never Recover
CNBC Sports Business Reporter
The saying goes that winning solves everything. But would it for LeBron James? I'm not so sure.
Like a medieval fable gone wrong, this King hasn't seen the error of his ways. He still doesn't get that fans aren't mad at his actual decision to leave Cleveland, but the way "The Decision" show went down.
And he still doesn't understand that the reason he is disliked so much is because he brings it on.
It's the little things that continue to push him back. Getting involved in petty antics like his coughing fit with Dwyane Wade, meant to mimic their opponent Dirk Nowitzki, no matter what they said in response.
Or characterizing those who are rooting against him as people "with personal problems." Really? It's all them, not a bit of you?
It has to be hard to be LeBron James. I can't imagine and I have no clue what it's like. But I'm pretty sure that everyone who is involved in his inner circle—and his business partners are his high school friends—is too scared to bite the hand that feeds it. They're too scared to put the mirror in LeBron's face.
I'm surprised that those who have spent big money on his endorsements haven't done it. Instead, they've just taken a back seat. Out of all of James' sponsors, State Farm was the only one running a relatively new, regular commercial during the Finals. His largest sponsor, Nike, was completely silent this postseason, as was Coca-Cola, which uses James for its Vitaminwater and Sprite brands. McDonald's ran its commercial with LeBron and Dwight Howard, but that was a spot that was a year and half old. Upstart energy strip Sheets is utilizing LeBron everywhere, but that has to do with the fact that James and his business partner Maverick Carter are intricately involved with the brand.
Some will say it will be a tough offseason for those companies that back LeBron James because "The Decision" wasn't righted by an NBA title. I think the scary thing for those that back him off the court is, would a title really change things?
Almost 24 percent of my Twitter followers, who voted in my poll before last night's game, said that LeBron James was the most disliked athlete ever. James was only beaten out by Barry Bonds (29 percent) and surrounded by OJ Simpson (12 percent) and Alex Rodriguez (9 percent).
Would showing up in the fourth quarter and winning two more games really have flip-flopped that sentiment? Hard to believe.
Reputation cannot be healed without dominance on the court or course. The only repair can come through championships—LeBron finally getting it done, Tiger beating Jack. But that doesn't mean that Tiger or LeBron will get back to where they once were. LeBron's height in the marketing world might always be remembered as the day before 'The Decision," just like Tiger's was the day before Thanksgiving in 2009.
Winning a title is important for LeBron James. But the right person getting through to him as to why he's in this position to begin with, and for him to accept what they have to say, might be even more important.
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