Runner up Finish Could Cost LeBron and D-Wade $15 million
LeBron James and Dwayne Wade cost themselves a combined $10 million to $15 million in potential new endorsements. Dirk Nowitzki has a boatload of cash in front him – if he wants it.
That’s the gist of NBA Finals endorsement wrapup, according to sports marketing expert Bob Dorfman of San Francisco-based Baker Street Advertising. The most compelling story of a compelling postseason seems to be mysterious case of LeBron James disappearing in the fourth quarter of some key games, an angle already set against the story line of LeBron as villain, brought about by his unpopular “decision” last summer.
And it’s certainly true that LeBron’s failure to capture a ring this year hurts his sponsorship growth potential, at least for now. What’s interesting to note, though, is that while the whole world seems to be piling on LeBron in the immediate wake of the series, the man still sells like crazy. Dorfman points to a slew of evidence: James’ top selling NBA jersey, his featured spots for McDonald’s, State Farm and Sprite that ran during the finals, plus a roll in the upcoming movie “Ballers,” a basketball comedy. So don’t count on James losing any of his $30 million annual endorsement portfolio. “LeBron’s brand is global, and his celebrity transcends his sport,” says Dorfman. At the same time, he estimates that the polarization of the LeBron, combined with his failures in the clutch, probably cost him some $10 million in new opportunities.
Dwayne Wade, never in LeBron’s class as a marketer to begin with, forfeited “a few million” in potential new earnings thanks to the Heat’s failure to take the title, estimates Dorfman. Wade’s most significant off the court business are his T-Mobil spots. On the plus side: Wade, a mostly low-key star, didn’t have as far to fall as LeBron did. He already has a ring from 2006, and he outplayed LeBron in the finals. But as he pushes 30, “Unless the Heat go all the way next season, marketers may find their money will be better spent on younger stars like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose or Blake Griffin,” says Dorfman.
The wild card in all this is Nowitzki, a 13-year NBA star who now adds champion to his resume. Dorfman thinks he could easily rake in $3 million to $5 million in annual endorsement cash.
Thing is, Nowitzki isn’t particularly charismatic, and he’s never shown much interest in chasing endorsements. Ironically, that approach is now a huge potential asset for Nowitzki, whose regular guy persona was beamed to a huge audience during the finals.
Should he change his tune, Dorfman has the perfect suggestion: leveraging Dirk’s Game Four effort, in which he overcame a 102 degree fever to help the Mavs pull out a key win, into a pitchman spot for Bayer Aspirin, Campbell’s chicken soup or Lipton Tea. Or, asks Dorfman, “How about an “I’m going to Euro Disneyland’ spot?”