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When Your Brand's Life Cycle Turns Into a Lifetime
By: Emory Brown
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We have seen endorsement deals since the beginning of time. Dr. J and Converse, Charles Barkley and Right Guard, Tiger Woods and Golf (LOL), Derrick Rose and Adidas, and of course Michael Jordan: Wheaties, Hanes, and Nike. Yet, we’ve yet to see an athlete get a lifetime endorsement deal. Like, from this day and forever deal. Almost like wedding vows for brands, “to have to and to promote until death do us part.” It used to be that you could endorse any product over a lifetime. Now Nike has set the stage for athletes to be spokespeople for a lifetime.

Derrick Rose got around $300M for his deal with Adidas. He was off for some time because of injuries with his knees. I thought he was going to have to cough up that dough if he didn’t recover from his injuries. Yet Derrick is doing his thing. Not lifetime status, though.

But how do you get Nike to sign you for life? A lifetime? How many pairs of gym shoes is that? How many TV spots? How many print ads and promo tours? LeBron is only 30 years old. Mike Jordan’s line is worth $2.2B. Can we call the finance team that did the projections on LeBron’s brand worth when he’s 60+? Nike has been in business with LeBron for 12 years and counting now.

Has Nike pulled a Clorox on us? P&G’s generational strategy seems to bubbling all over this deal. Let’s see…my mom and dad were LeBron fans, I could potentially become a LeBron fan, a my kids might become LeBron fans, and now we are three generations deep in “Brand LeBron.” Let’s look at the picture a little clearer: Nike is making mega bucks off this super forward, with sales of his line surpassing $400M this year alone. What will LeBron be making for Nike in 10 years? Phil Knight and an entire team of executives in "Swooh-land" know.

Can you imagine what sports brands’ marketing teams around the world are thinking? Mutha@#! Nike has dunked in our face. With Under Armour becoming a very strong competitor in the space, this strategy may not only be employed with LeBron but also with some other lucrative brand ambassadors from various sports and categories currently repping for Nike.

I think I’m going to the gym tomorrow to practice my jump shot, because shooting the rock may have a new level of aspiration tied to it for the next generation of ball players. LeBron has released 13 versions of his signature shoe, which is more than any other athlete outside of Jordan. James’ and Jordan’s performances on the court have created brand identities that are becoming revered and cherished in gym shoe culture for this lifetime and the next. I guess that’s the beauty of sports heroes; they live on as great brands.


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About the Author
Emory Brown is an award-winning creative director/writer whose mission is to spread the gospel of what great marketers can do when they put their heads together and work together for the greater good and not the bottom line. Working with many esteemed clients, his portfolio of work ranges in genre from conservative to ultra-modern including American Family Insurance, United Airlines, Mazda 6 and RX-8, Illinois Lottery, Tyson, Miller Genuine Draft, Nike Air Force 1, and Mercedes Benz, to name a few.  
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