By Ryan Velez
Anyone who has been watching the Final Four or NBA playoffs likely saw the Intel commercial featuring LeBron James, complete with the strange baby head showcasing the company’s 360 Replay Technology. However, a recently Celebrity Net Worth article points out that this deal is a rarity for the NBA player, who has made a brilliant move regarding his endorsements.
The Silicon Valley giant and Nike, which LeBron has a lifetime deal with, are two public companies that LeBron has a relationship with, but they are the exception, not the rule when it comes to his endorsements. In general, LeBron has stopped working with public companies, instead choosing to concentrate his energies on startups and companies that are still growing. So far, it’s proven to be a profitable choice. For example, James originally owned a part of Beats By Dre and would promote the product by wearing the headphones before and after games. He would get $30 million when the company was sold. He also chose to leave a McDonald’s sponsorship deal to invest in fast-casual chain Blaze Pizza, now owning more than a 10% stake.
LeBron also would get a near $16 million payday from Warner Bros. and Turner Sports to develop Uninterrupted, an online space for athletes to develop, create, and share web video, and mobile content. He would produce shows Cleveland Hustles and The Wall for the platform, a LeBron-themed spin on Shark Tank and the Plinko game from The Price Is Right, respectively.
It’s important to note that as LeBron’s career goes on, it makes sense that he would take a more active approach to his partner companies, but he has been doing this since his NBA start. In his rookie year, 2003, James invested in bike company Cannondale, valued at $58 million at the time. His stake was never disclosed, but upon selling it in 2008, he made four times his initial investment.
While he hasn’t always made winning deals, such as startups that haven’t bloomed or his partnership with Microsoft, LeBron has tried to apply vision to his partnerships. A great example is his partnership with the University of Akron and JP Morgan Chase Bank. James would promote the university and Chase could show him in promotional materials, but only if they provided scholarships to students from his Akron-based “I Promise” program. The deal would get guaranteed 4-year scholarships for over 1,100 students.