Written by Andrew Fishkin
LeBron James and Stephen Curry couldn’t be more different. As the two most prominent faces in today’s game, the 2015 Finals matchup is perfect for the NBA. LeBron and Steph provide entertainment on the court and huge marketability off, both in very different ways. Who would your company choose to endorse? Which endorsement would provide the greater ROI?
While aligning your brand with a successful athlete can be an effective marketing strategy, endorsement deals need to strike the right balance between an athlete’s performance and his or her image. Marketers want their athletes to perform at high levels and to represent ideals that fit with their brand attributes. Brands should base choices for what an athlete endorses on comprehensive and sound marketing research, not bias or personal preference. Who does your target audience relate to? This could encompass a variety of people, from athletes to movie stars to politicians. Do they have the power to move product? If an athlete is associated with too many things, their word may not be respected enough to influence purchasing behavior. Brands aren’t worried about that with these two. Not yet at least.
On the court, LeBron James’ 6 foot 8 inch muscular stature is in stark contrast to Steph’s 6 foot 3 inch wirey body type. They’ve both mastered how to use their respective frames to reach the pinnacle of NBA superstardom. LeBron has the ability to drive through defenders (and dunk on them) or pull-up for 3 while Steph uses his ball handling ability and quickness to hit “open” shots or go around defenders. Both proving to be effective and virtually unguardable.
The LeBron brand is global, his King-like mantra transcends sport, and his appeal crosses all demographics. LeBron stars in a Beats By Dre headphones commercial titled, "You Deserve The Best," with James wearing a pair of gold Beats By Dre Solo 2 wireless headphones dressed in a tailored suit. This spot perfectly portrays how LeBron chooses to use his halo effect.
Steph’s humility and authenticity have led to different, yet high levels of appreciation and respect from fans of all ages. Taking his flourishing marketing prowess in stride is paradoxically what's made him desired by so many companies seeking a spokesman. From the homemade YouTube videos to his 2-yeard old daughter, Riley, taking over press conferences, it's an authenticity that can't be faked. Next on the list should be to spoof his nice-guy image, much as Broncos QB Peyton Manning has done with appearances on "SNL" and in ESPN ads. We like funny people and that would really bring the common man persona full circle.
It will be interesting to see if Steph can match LeBron’s marketing prowess, regardless of the 2015 Finals outcome.