Monday, October 20, 2008

Examining LeBron's Personal Brand

Last month, Esquire had a great expose about LeBron James and his managing team. The article shows how James' team of people are positioning the LeBron James brand to be bigger than the Jordan brand.
Not mentioned, Elton Brand.
The main crux of their plan is partnerships over sponsorships. Usually, the product benefits most from its association with the athlete, but this strategy allows LeBron to reap rewards (monetary and otherwise) to an equal degree.

With that in mind, here's a look at some of the latest in LeBron James products and what they mean to the LeBrand.

Still at the center of the LeBron brand is his signature shoe. This year's model is the LeBron Zoom VI.
Also, there are NUMEROUS varieties of LeBron shoes for sale.

Zoom LeBron Soldier IIIZoom LeBron VI LowZoom Ambassador
As with the majority of LeBron shoes, these all look spectacularly clunky. That might be explained by LeBron's obvious hugeness, but it's also anti-thetical to branding. No one wants to be clunky, and LeBron's shoes (and coordinating clothing) always looks so needlessly bulky. These clothes and shoes are designed for a guy who is 6'8", 260 lbs. and it shows. Even his custom Air Force 25s are clunky.

These design follies are surely the reason that the LeBrons haven't caught on as a lifestyle shoe as Jordan's did. Even today, you'll see far more Air Jordans on the court than LeBrons. The reason is obvious; Jordans are innovative and generally classy, where LeBron's shoes use convential materials and their designs are just a bit off.

Unfortunately for LeBron and company, until the shoes take off, they'll never surpass the Jordan brand in viability. Jordan and his people understood this and built his brand that way. (Furthermore, the Air Jordan's limited availability helped to make it special. LeBron may have oversatured the market with his pairs upon pairs of shoes.) It wasn't until Jordan was an established marketing force that he expanded in to things like movies, racing, and the like. LeBron, however, is already branching out.

In HS, LeBron suffered from Taco Neck Syndrome.

About a month ago, LeBron's film premiered to rave reviews, a step that lends LeBron's brand additional clout and credibility. Additionally, the film (which examines his high school career) serves to build his legend.
There are, of course, other partnerships which are more unusual. For instance, LeBron and Ralph Lauren's Purple Label.

Yet another similarity between LeBron and Kanye.

As has been stated time and time again, LeBron wants to be a global icon and the first billionaire athlete. And while that is certainly feasible, the true test will be the respect and recognition that his brand gathers. Will he become another Jordan, serving as a fashion and business icon? Or will he be just another rich athlete?

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