Friday, May 21, 2010

Using a marketing perspective to predict LeBron’s next destination

To figure out where LeBron is going to play in 2010-11, you need only look at this picture of him:

Disregard all the non-Bill Simmons sports analysts you’ve been reading. The picture above shows that LeBron will indeed be returning to Cleveland next year. And in fact, I’m going to predict that he signs with Cleveland for less money so they can build a better team.

Seeing LeBron in his sweater-and-hipster-glasses get-up--and I mean this in a good way--it makes me think he's trying to craft an image for a specific variety of American--specifically, members of the hip 18-35 middle class who have the disposable income to buy his stuff. If we know two things about LeBron James's personality, it's that he wants to be loved, and he's a good marketer. Bron Bron has already cultivated a likable, clean, and decidedly un-gangster image that has endeared him to mainstream America. And what better way to cement that image than to stick with Cleveland and be known as the guy who turned down more money in order to bring a championship to his hometown team? It brands him the ultimate good guy in basketball.

Some have argued that if LeBron wants the spotlight, he’ll head to the big city lights of New York or New Jersey. But they’re forgetting one thing: he’s LeBron James. As one of the most famous athletes on the planet, the marginal increase in his celebrity from moving out of slow-paced Cleveland to a media circus like New York is essentially zero. In other words, when you're an international celebrity, the size of the local media market is pretty irrelevant.

So with apologies to the Knicks, Nets, Heat, Clips, Bulls, Mavs (personally, I’d like to see LeBron put his Mavericks jersey on), and all the other monosyllabic teams vying for him: my bet is that LeBron opts to brand himself as “the good guy who refused to abandon his hometown team. LeBron is sticking with the Cavs, for better or for worse. Unless he comes to the Wizards to hang out with other hipster glasses on U Street.

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