The way LeBron and his camp handled the announcement disturbed many in the league, press and public. He was widely panned as being selfish and ego-driven, and even basketball legends Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley publicly chided his actions. The damage LeBron suffered to his brand and overall image was immense and might prove to be irreparable.
The fallout was so bad that one of his biggest sponsors, Nike, recently felt the need to roll-out a highly publicized TV ad for its superstar. The 90 second commercial, LeBron Rise, attempts to repair his image while addressing the offseason criticism for his poor handling of the announcement. The reviews were mixed, but it did lead to a sharp, funny rebuttal, Response to “LeBron Rise,” from Cavaliers fans.
Cleveland was not the only ones to spoof the commercial; the creators of the comedy show South Park and the Ultimate Fighting Championship poked fun at the new Nike commercial. (If you need a laugh, I recommend viewing them on YouTube – warning: clips contain strong language.)
To LeBron’s credit, he did purchase a full page ad after his “decision” in his hometown paper, the Akron Beacon-Journal, thanking his family, friends and supporters. Interestingly, the ad did not mention or thank his thousands of fans and supporters in Cleveland.
In the end, one commercial or an entire ad campaign is not going to repair LeBron’s image. While winning a championship (or five) might help, it’s going to take a very concerted effort from LeBron and his handlers to mend fences with fans and the public. However, based on his latest Nike TV ad and the public’s reaction, it appears that won’t happen anytime soon.