So the King has entered the Twitter building! I’m sure somewhere in San Francisco there was a company toast at Twitter HQ, but is the decision by LeBron James and his LRMR marketing team (headed up by Maverick Carter) to hop on the social media tool the right timing? More importantly, is LeBron’s marketing team really prepared to handle all of his online PR during “The Decision” tonight on ESPN?
Earlier today, via the web, LeBron announced to his 300k Twitter followers that he will take questions from fans on Twitter tonight with this tweet:
Good Morning! It’s your chance to ask me a question about my decision, use #lebrondecision to submit and I’ll answer them tonight.
The details behind this digital move are fuzzy. Will LeBron answer questions in real-time via Twitter during the 1 hour long ESPN special? Probably not. Will he simply answer a few carefully vetted questions post TV announcement? If the LRMR team really wanted to push the social media envelope, they could integrate Twitter live on the TV screen during the announcement. Of course, that’s way too risky considering the polarizing nature of “The Decision” (and not my recommendation).
Most importantly, with less than 7 hours until LeBron finally ends all the drama, I have to seriously question whether or not the LeBron PR machine is ready to effectively handle the negative backlash that will surface tonight as a result of LeBron’s announcement. I think whether or not LeBron is actually active and interactive on Twitter after the free agency decision shakes out should also factor into whether this was a smart marketing decision.
After waiting more than 2 years to launch an official Twitter for one of the most lucrative personalities in sports, the LRMR team clearly viewed this move as a logical catalyst for building LBJ’s digital brand. 300k Twitter followers in 48 hours is extremely impressive, but I guarantee you the LeBron camp thought they would have a 1 million followers by Friday.
Is LRMR going to pursue sponsorships for the @KingJames Twitter profile? Are they going to integrate Twitter into his thinly populated official website? Heck, why not livestream tonight’s announcement on LeBron’s official website, or better yet on LeBron’s 2.5 million fan Facebook Page, enable a live comment stream, and aggregate the #lebrondecision hashtag with a widget. VitaminWater already leveraged their relationship with LeBron to give one lucky fan the opportunity to ask a question live on ESPN during the announcement show (but I digress).
However, there is one thing that LRMR knows that the rest of us don’t as this point (hopefully) and that’s where the King is heading to play NBA basketball. Perhaps LeBron has made the decision to remain with the Cleveland Cavaliers and this is heavily weighing into his digital PR strategy to take questions from fans on Twitter tonight. If he stays in Cleveland rather than leave his hometown, the magnitude and impact of the MAJOR backlash and negative sentiment from fans online will be much easier to handle.
Don’t get me wrong, I am usually an advocate of building an athlete’s brand equity on Twitter and using an official Twitter hashtag to build the LeBron James digital brand is a smart marketing decision in of itself, but the way that LeBron’s camp handles negative PR from his live television show could arguably define his legacy in the near-term, at least until he wins his first in a series of NBA championships (if that does occur).
Many are accusing LeBron of merely inflating is ego by declaring his free agency decision live on ESPN, this in spite of the fact he is donating all of the TV sponsorship money to the Boys and Girls Club of America so imagine what Cavs fans will say if he rips their hearts out in fronts of millions on live TV. LRMR is rolling the dice with the live TV special, and I wonder if the same is true with launching LeBron’s Twitter for tonight. Whether LeBron stays in Cleveland will ultimately answer many of these questions.
What do you think about the timing of LeBron’s launch on Twitter?