Lebron James is one of the biggest American sports stars today; this goes without debate. However, this past week, the 24 year-old king of basketball was apparently dunked on at his own camp by a 20 year-old college basketball player. That player was Xavier guard Jordan Crawford and as a Xavier alum, I am extremely proud.
However, it appears that the videotape of this dunk will remain unseen because it was immediately confiscated by the Lebron/Nike team of drones, resulting in a tremendous amount of negative publicity for Nike and Lebron this week. This adds to the swirling negative perceptions around Lebron that he is only about himself, a sore loser and he doesn't want an unknown college player (who has done and said all the right things) to have any shine with his spotlight whatsoever.
From a marketing perspective, this event was a great occurrence; giving Lebron and Nike had the chance to steal the headlines for a couple days during the sleepy NBA offseason. Even greater, this is social marketing GOLD. It was not created in some studio by an ad agency, it just happened naturally, creating a massive buzz throughout the sports world.
However, they seem to be looking at this from the half empty perspective. Instead of spinning positively saying Lebron is human and even he can get dunked on, Nike totally shoots a brick. Did they forget that human is Nike's core demographic? Not professional athletes but the weekend athletes.
In the end, Nike will lose a lot of authenticity in the consumer's minds. Instead of a company full of young, rebellious, ahead of the curve marketing geniuses, they drop the ball and look like just another boring billion dollar self image concerning conglomerate.
Finally, did Nike really think that a college athlete and a young reporter were going to take down the Lebron empire with a youtube video? These are the guys who have degrees in this stuff. The guys who do this for a living better than anyone else. Something tells me that Nike being professionals at this stuff wouldn't miss an opportunity like this. That leaves Lebron in charge, and he completely tossed an air ball on this one.