He’s a multi-multi-multi-million dollar athlete. Perhaps someday he’ll be worth more than a billion. Brands like Nike, Coca Cola, and State Farm pay him ridiculous sums to endorse their product and history has shown great athletes deliver huge dividends for the companies that endorse them (think Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan). But today I think LeBron James is completely overpaid as an endorsed professional athlete. Not because his on the court performance doesn’t warrant it. Watching him play is often times breath taking. It’s what he does off the court that makes me question his million dollar worthiness.
After the Cleveland Caveliers were ousted in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Orlando Magic, the media reported that Lebron James left the arena without speaking to the press or so much as shaking hands with his opponent.
“It’s hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them,” he said. “I’m a winner. It’s not being a poor sport or anything like that. If somebody beats you up, you’re not going to congratulate them. That doesn’t make sense to me. I’m a competitor. That’s what I do. It doesn’t make sense for me to go over and shake somebody’s hand.”
In an environment where integrity and goodwill are key factors in managing a company’s reputation, one has to wonder if this is the sort of behavior you want your spokesman exhibiting. OK, I get it – no body likes losing. But even the greatest competitors recognize their opponents for a great effort and team play. I’m not going to commentate on the play of the two teams but I’m thoroughly disgusted as a sports fan at LeBron’s juvenile response to losing. His actions (or lack thereof) were disrespectful to his teammates, his opponents, the league and its fans (who incidently are the ones make his endorsement deals possible).
And as for the marketer in me, while its unlikely any of his sponsors will drop him over this or any of his other childish actions, one must wonder what Lebron was thinking in terms of managing his personal brand. The man “owns” his own marketing firm, and refuses to employ an outside agent. For a man who supposedly knows how to manage his own image and all its marketability, it sounds to me like he could use some coaching on personal branding.