LeBron’s Brand Shifts to ‘the Good Guy’ and Cash Windfall Awaits

Could mean $50 million to Cleveland franchise

In the first hour today after LeBron James revealed he was going back to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the development was mentioned on Twitter 1.44 million times, per Kontera. Underscoring the popularity of the move, the social data company's emailed report appropriately utilized the subject line: "He's the Good Guy, This Time."

But what will King James' return to the Ohio city mean to the team's brand and revenues? 

"Could be huge," said Bob Dorfman, sports marketing analyst and ecd at Baker Street Advertising. "Regular season ticket sales will go from 80 percent capacity to 100 percent; many playoff games are likely, meaning more revenue there; merchandise sales will skyrocket; team sponsorship earnings will increase. … [I figure] LeBron could be worth as much as $25 million a year in increased revenue to the Cavs, and could up their overall team value as much as $50 million. And for LeBron personally, it could add another $5 million to his yearly endorsement earnings. New story lines for his sponsors, fresh merchandise to sell, the center of attention all next season."

Without question, the 29-year-old basketball great—who was villianized for leaving Cleveland for Miami four years ago—returns on a white horse that advertisers will want to jump on. For instance, sponsor Samsung's creatives must be licking their chops at the thought of LeBron spots about "his return."

Forbes magazine, earlier this year, ranked Cleveland as the National Basketball Association's 19th most valuable franchise, coming with a worth of $515 million. Matt Dzamba, director of sports marketing at creative agency Zambezi, which services the Los Angeles Lakers, seems to believe the Cavaliers will move up that list. 

"They don't need to spend a dollar on marketing," he said. 

Indeed, the Cavs suddenly became one of the hottest tickets in sports, and James' brand—already a marketing juggernaut—just became stronger now that he's back home in northeast Ohio. 

"The star from Akron—who was coined 'the Chosen One' out of high school—has now truly graduated to become the King," Dzamba added. "[He's] the people's champ."

But whether he can bring an NBA title to Cleveland remains to be seen.