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Lebron James’ ‘Exclusive’ Announcement: Wise PR Move or Bizarre Publicity Stunt? | Sternberg Strategic Communications

Lebron James’ ‘Exclusive’ Announcement: Wise PR Move or Bizarre Publicity Stunt?

July 7th, 2010

Earlier today,  I posed the following question on SSC’s Facebook fan page (you should “like” us, if you haven’t already . . . #justsaying): Is Lebron James taking the immense PR power of announcing his new NBA team a little too far with his hour-long exclusive announcement on ESPN Thursday night?

That question arose from the rather bizarre manner in which King James has decided to end his whirlwind courtship by the NBA’s biggest spenders after becoming a free agent just seven days ago (July 1). This announcement has 3 things that have piqued our interest, from a communications perspective, that is:

1. What effect does this made-for-TV publicity moment have on James’ image, and to a much larger extent, on the NBA’s much-maligned brand perception? Organizations, whether the NBA or NBC, have their spokespeople who are the face of the brand. The NBA wants to portray a clean image, something it hasn’t been able to do for quite some time. Maybe this is the point where the Association changes its image.

2. How much is too much when it comes to getting publicity and notoriety out of an event? It’s somewhat understandable Lebron would want to hold his next potential employer and his many fans basically hostage given the sometimes vapid media environment we live in now. ESPN, I’m sure, is more than happy to accommodate this “exclusive” event given the high price it will command for advertising during the announcement. I can’t help but wonder, though, if this is taking publicity stunts and grandstanding in sports a little too far.

3. Also important to watch is how athletes, celebrities and wanna-be celebrities use social networks to bypass traditional modes of announcements; yes, Bron-Bron is using ESPN to deliver “The Decision Heard Round The Hardwood” but in light of last week’s Joe Johnson’s HuffPo announcement, is it too far a stretch to believe that at 8:59 p.m. EDT, LeBron tweets out his new employer followed by his live event?

What are your thoughts? Do you find Lebron’s antics too much, or think he’s just continuing the long history of over-the-top publicity stunts by athletes and celebrities? Will social media play a larger role in how the famous broadcast their intentions (RT @tomcruise: Do you feel the need for speed—again ? Top Gun 2 comin’ at ya!)

If you want a great source for NBA news as a whole and Knicks news specifically, check out the guys at KnicksTweets, who have a great piece on LeBron.