One of the most notable aspects of opening night of the NBA season on Tuesday was how much LeBron James was featured in the commercials. The Miami Heat star was the pitchman in new Samsung Mobile and Nike commercials that aired nationally throughout the first two games, both of which portrayed him as a lovable, friendly and wholesome character, or as branding expert Nate Jones calls it, the “athlete next door.”
In the Samsung Mobile commercial, James is seen spending time with his family, looking like your everyday parent. And how does he spend his time? Capturing the best moments on video and in photos and sharing them on his Samsung Galaxy phone. It was like the new version of the All-American life.
The Nike basketball commercial was crafted in the same way. James meets the neighborhood kids outside his house and they all bike throughout the city, waving and saying “hi” to people throughout the area. They go to the beach and then LeBron hits the park to play some hoops. He then runs back to his house with everyone behind him, Forrest Gump style. All the while there’s soft, pleasant music playing in the background.
Contrast that Nike commercial with the one Nike made after LeBron went to Miami. Remember when they dressed him up as the villain and had him embracing the hate?
James lived the life as the villain of the league for a few years and was motivated by the hate. He remained focused, worked hard and won championships. Though he was successful being the villain, you could tell that role didn’t reflect his true identity.
Now that he has won two championships, James has won most people over and is well-liked. He’s a guy companies want to endorse their products. He has officially done a complete 180 when it comes to re-making his image.
Think about the branding and pitchmen in the NBA over the past two years. James has had his commercials here and there. He was in Beats by Dre headphones commercials and maybe some other advertisements, but nothing too notable. Chris Paul and the whole “Cliff Paul” campaign became State Farm’s big sell compared to past years when they featured LeBron in their commercials. Kia’s big pitchman is Blake Griffin. Dwyane Wade and Charles Barkley were selling T-Mobile products.
When is the last time you saw LeBron James starring in national commercials that aired throughout big games as the central pitchman for a product? It’s been a long time, and that’s mostly because big companies were hesitant to partner with him after all the backlash he received for joining the Miami Heat. But it’s been over three years since he left for South Beach. He reached three straight finals and won back-to-back championships. He’s mostly avoided trouble and controversies. James has officially won over the respect of most of the American public, and the new commercials are evidence of that reality.
LeBron is not only the best player in the league, but he is now officially the face of the league in all regards.Google+