Sunday, June 19, 2011

iQ: LeBron's Sponsor Rating Continues to take a Hit

“At the end of the day, all the people rooting for me to fail, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before they woke up today,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live.”
- LeBron James suggesting that he is superior in response to crticism that people were rooting for him to fail after losing in the Finals to the Mavs.

Before the ill-conceived Decision, LeBron was a popular, likable athlete. However, after he announced in July 2010 he was taking his talents to South Beach, LeBron's Q rating dropped by about 40%. It also didn't help that he was part of a flashy production where he said the Heat would win 8 plus championships. On stage were LeBron, Wade and Bosh - and that was it. No other teammates. Just them.

The Q Score is a measurement of the familiarity and appeal of a celebrity (in this case). The higher the Q Score, the more highly-regarded the person. Q Scores can be relied on by sponsors to determine the marketability of a player.

LeBron actually began to see his Q rating recover in March 2011 by 20%. He was still a villain to many, but there was a recovery nonetheless.

After his most recent comments, you would expect that his rating will once again take a hit after belittling the purchasing public the Finals.

If you're his sponsors like Nike, Coke, State Farm, Upper Deck and McDonald's, you might be reviewing your relationship with LeBron, and may schedule a phone call with the basketball star.

Remember one key thing: brand owners are risk adverse. They don't want to associate themselves with a person that is perceived in a negative light, since by extension theirs brands will be perceived in a similar fashion.

Despite his "villain status", LeBron has earned the most among NBA players, taking in $34 million over the past 12 months in endorsements and royalty deals.

Perhaps what is most interesting about LeBron is that while he is seen as a villain, people want to like him. They search for areas of sympathy. This may be in part because people recognize he is getting bad advice. However, at the same time, public patience is not unlimited.

At the age of 26, LeBron is at the age of accountability. We can't say anymore that he's young and doesn't appreciate what he's saying. Maybe he should hang out with Rory McIlroy.

If he wants to stay near the top in sponsor deals, he will need to recalibrate. He just can't keep saying things that alienate people. If his Q rating continues to drop, eventually sponsors may elect to look elsewhere.

We never heard Michael Jordan say this stuff (while he was playing at least). He understood he was a brand. LeBron needs that realization too. People will care about him if he conveys he cares about them.

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