Recently I read a column on Forbes.com by Keith Turco asking whether or not Lebron James is the next Michael Jordan? Not on the hardwood, but off the court – in the world of celebrity endorsements.
Like Jordan in the mid-80’s and 90’s, James is one of, if not the most talented player in the game today. Like all great past vs present sports debates you could argue for hours who would win in a game of one-on-one between the two – IMHO it would be close, but I don’t think James couldn’t handle Jordon’s quickness. However, as a pitchman, I don’t think it’s even close.
Jordan had an innate charisma. People just seemed to like him & were drawn to him. He changed the complexion of the game. He was an innovator and an idol, not just in the NBA but on Madison Avenue too.
Before Jordan, Nike was just a shoe company. After signing him in 1984, they became a global Brand.
One stat that Mr Turco points out in his Forbes piece, is the “Jordan Effect”. Which is believed that through his pitches for Nike, McDonalds, etc… Jordan influenced roughly $10 billion in consumer spending. Everyone wanted to be “like Mike”.
It seems like before Jordan came along, athletes’ appearance in commercials were goofy and awkward. Jordan made them cool. He was (and still is) as comfortable in front of the camera as he was on the court. He had swagger without being cocky. He was believable and genuine. But above all, he was likable.
I think that’s where James falls short. After leaving & embarrassing the entire city of Cleveland on ESPN, his appeal took a pretty big dip. He went from being the “King,” to the guy countless of fans burned his jersey in effigy. The crown is tarnished.
Recently I saw a promo for the NBA Finals that billed James and his Heat as the “bad guys.” Never would have happened to Jordan. He was the good guy. It was always the other team that was billed as the brutes.
I have no doubt LeBron still has a massive following and will continue to be successful off the court (as he is on the court.) He will go on to sign bigger and more lucrative endorsement deals. But when it comes to the art of pitching, for my money, Jordan is still in rarified air.
Mourned by few, the era of 3-martini lunches is long gone. But, is the era of just having lunch with coworkers, clients, or friends also