McDonald’s Bets on LeBron’s Past

1 02 2010
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LeBron James inks endorsement deal with McDonald's (http://bit.ly/cKEPV0)

McDonald’s took a calculated risk when it signed LeBron James as its next celebrity sponsor.

Sponsorship deals were sparse for athletes last year.  The recession forced corporations to cut back on superfluous spending.  Scandals by athletes such as Tiger Woods and Serena Williams also led to serious hesitations by advertisers.

This lack of corporate sponsorships seems to be continuing in 2010 – though not for McDonald’s. The fast-food chain just inked a deal with Cleveland Cavalier forward LeBron James.

To kick off this partnership, James will appear in the remake of an iconic 1993 Super Bowl commercial featuring Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In addition, the NBA star will also rack up a number of public appearances.  Among other events, James will show at this year’s McDonald’s All American High School Basketball Games.

This is fitting, as McDonald’s and James were first introduced when James starred on the high school All-American team.  It is this long history that likely sealed the deal for the global burger chain.

“All we can do is look at the past behavior and hope that will be a future indicator of what that person is going to be like,” Peter Sterling, vice president of marketing for McDonald’s USA, told The Wall Street Journal.

“He’s got a passion for what he does, he’s family oriented, he’s community-minded, and he’s charitable.”

Sounds a bit like a pre-November Tiger Woods.  But McDonald’s will be prepared, as the contract will be sure to have a huge morals clause.  A few years ago, the corporation parted ways with James’ fellow NBA star Kobe Bryant when he faced rape allegations.

“We only sign with athletes that we believe have a good fit with the brand,” Sterling said. “We haven’t done a lot of these recently.  That’s not because of Tiger, but the Tiger Woods situation has certainly shined a spotlight on this.”

While both McDonald’s and James will likely make millions of this deal, the real winners are the fans, who get to see more of James and the endless entertainment he provides.

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