Lebron’s Road to a Billion-Dollar Brand

A very interesting article that appeared today on Fortune, talks about Lebron and his vision to building a billion-dollar brand.

After Lebron’s stunning and historic performance in game five of the  Eastern Conference finals against the Detroit Pistons, and was described by  NBC anchor Marv Albert as  “one of the all-time performances in NBA history.” and “Jordanesque” by another announcer. Nike’s executives realized this is the begining to a whole new era for James and Nike and called it “AGF”, “After Game Five”.

That game, prompted Nike to reshuffle its basketball division, placing James atop the organization, and more resources will be devoted to marketing and selling James’s products.

Before the change, about four people within Nike spent most of their time on James. In the new construct, about 150 people will be working on James on a daily basis.

James is taking a different approach to handle his business. In 2005, he established his own firm, LRMR Marketing named for the initials of the four buddies: Lebron, Randy Mims, Maverick Carter, and Richard Paul.

“It was my idea. I wanted to own my own business,” he says in the first of two exclusive interviews with Fortune. He also wanted to give his friends a chance to create a professional legacy beyond being flunkies and hangers-on: “How do my guys want to be remembered when LeBron James is finished playing basketball?”


The article is very long but these are some of the interesting points I found that might interest us as Cavaliers fans:

  • Among the top NBA players, James ranks highest for endorsement potential, ahead of the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade and the L.A. Lakers’ Kobe Bryant.Yet he ranks lower when measured by “sophistication” and “accessibility.”
    Chris Gebhardt, a consultant who conducted the research, says, “They simply do not have as positive an image of LeBron as they do of sports celebrities who have married on-field performance with off-field personality, such as Tiger, Peyton, or Michael. We need to do a better job of appealing to the consumer side of these fans, to start telling the nonbasketball story.”
  • Ohio may be home, but it is not a major media market. And there has been speculation within the league of his moving to New York or Los Angeles when his contract is up.
  • LRMR’s future does not rely on research but on James’s winning an NBA championship, and in Cleveland’s current lineup he is getting little support. This is an issue, because the success of the Cavaliers – who at presstime were playing .500 ball in the early season – will dictate the success of LRMR. For better or worse, James is locked into playing for Cleveland until 2010 at least, based on a contract extension he signed in 2006.”But first he has to win” is how Nike Brand president Charlie Denson sums up the key element in James’s becoming a true superstar. “He can’t get there unless he wins. LeBron knows that.”

You can read the full article here.