LeBron James – The Man with the Billion Dollar Personal Branding Plan

MarketingPeoplePersonal BrandingReputation ManagementSuccess Strategies

I don’t know if you had the chance to see the 60 Minutes piece on LeBron James last week? I did and I was extremely impressed with what I heard. I love sports and I love business. And while the creation of sports icons is not new, taking on the role of Chief Brand Manager for one’s own brand is something LeBron James seems to be doing with ease. This is a billion dollar powerhouse in the making – and by his own design.


Man on a mission

He is 24 years old and a man on a mission: He plans to be the first billion dollar sports brand. The operative word here is not billion dollar (although that’s very impressive….). The operative word is PLAN. This man has a plan to become the first billion dollar sports brand. And my bet is that he’ll do it.

If you assume LeBron James is one of the richest celebrities in the world, you’re correct. Even before LeBron played his first NBA game, Nike inked him to a ninety million dollar contract. And way back, at the tender(and often naïve) age of 19, LeBron was reportedly quoted saying that he wanted to be the first billionaire athlete in the entire world and become a global icon. Fast forward to April, 2009, and most would agree that LeBron is already a global icon and is well on his way to becoming the first billionaire athlete.

After all, here’s a man who in 2007 single handedly led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first sports championship game in years!

In a class of his own

“Michael Jordan had a 15- to 20-year run with Nike and developed a huge business that is probably worth $500 [million] to $600 million,” said Lynn Merritt, senior director of basketball sports marketing at Nike, and the guy who tracked LeBron from his earliest years in high school in an Ad Age report. “The state that LeBron comes in with now, with the internet and all kinds of technological advancements that weren’t around when Michael was at his peak, well, LeBron could be the first billion-dollar athlete in all aspects.”

Learn from LeBron

Anyone interested in the how or why of personal branding should study this story with great interest. Here are just a few elements of his personal branding story you might be able to incorporate to your plans:

1. Self-Awareness. This is a critical success factor to all personal branding – you’ve got to know who you are and where you’re going. Just watching the video from 60 Minutes is enough to convince most people that this is a man who is totally self aware.

–Are you self-aware? Do you have a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses? Does your personal brand statement reflect that?

2. Plan the Work and Work the Plan. LeBron has seen himself in the driver’s seat both on the bball court and off. According to interviews, he’s had a plan since before high school. Now he’s working that plan.

–What’s your plan? Have you written out your personal branding goals for the next 6 months, 1 year, 5 years?

3. Be Bold. LeBron stunned the advertising world when he announced that his three friends: Maverick Carter, Randy Mims and Rich Paul would run his marketing operations. His express goal? Driving the business of LeBron James into the stratosphere, where James would one day become sports first billion dollar athlete.

–What bold move could you make in the next few weeks that would make an unforgettable statement to those you’re seeking to reach? Think it through, write it out, and take action. Results happen for those who make them happen.


Beverly Macy is the Managing Partner of Y&M Partners and teaches a social media class at the UCLA Extension.  She also co-hosts Gravity Summit events.