But this new partnership means something more. The way we see it, it means that LeBron is changing the endorsement game.
Until now, star players have hooked up with big brands to champion the brand and promote products. When Houston Rockets’ James Harden makes an incredible play, Adidas (who signed a 13-year, $200 million deal with him in August), hopes that people will associate his talent with their brand. “If Harden can make that play wearing Adidas shoes, I can too.”
But this new Nike deal means that even when LeBron can’t leap over 2 defenders to make a powerful dunk, or drain a 3-pointer from 2 feet behind the arc, Nike sees value in having him represent their company.
Why exactly? It boils down to influence. LeBron James is the most recognizable and influential athlete in the world (sorry Steph). Nike didn't state why LeBron is the right athelete for such an enormous deal, but merely issued a public confirmation of the agreement. A humble and appreciative James spoke to the public directly by video on Uninterrupted.
"In recent years, we've seen LeBron hone his business acumen."
Still, in recent years, we’ve seen LeBron hone his business acumen. In October, LeBron partnered with a new restaurant venture, Blaze, to develop a “fast-casual” Chipotle-style business, but for pizza. And his equity stake in Beats by Dre cashed out quite nicely when Apple decided to buy Beats Electronics.
Even Uninterrupted, the multi-media site where athletes can share video content directly with their fans, is self-financed by James and his business partner Maverick Carter. It doesn’t hurt that Warner Bros. Entertainment and Turner Sports recently invested $15.8 million in the site.
There’s no doubt in anyone's mind that LeBron James is one of the most incredible players to play in the NBA. His court awareness and raw skill, complemented by his incredible work ethic, have made him one of The Greats. But his drive and saviness off the courts is just as impressive. This most recent Nike deal is just starting to showcase what James is truly capable of.