MIAMI – Miami Heat forward LeBron James will get the weight of the world’s expectations off of his shoulders if he wins the NBA title this season, but he will also take an important step towards becoming a global cash cow.
Bloomberg.com reports that winning a title is a critical next step for James’ marketability, an accomplishment that could reap as much as $4 billion for Nike sales in China over the next decade.
“LeBron is white-hot with the Chinese basketball-loving youth, but his popularity and influence outside of that circle is limited,” said Terry Rhoads, who left as Nike’s China sports marketing director in 2002 after eight years to form Shanghai- based Zou Marketing. “One reason is the lack of titles.”
Nike posted $1.96 billion in sales from China, the world’s most populous nation, in the 12 months through January. Rhoads said a “solid part” of that stems from basketball, without being more specific. A championship for James would allow him to take over for the 32-year-old Bryant as the company’s face in China, where Rhoads said it’s “easy to see” Nike’s revenue reaching $6 billion by 2020.
So we’re forecasting a tripling of annual revenue in one of the world’s major markets based off of one title alone? Holy moly. What happens if our collective nightmare comes true and the Heat actually turns into a dynasty? If James wins four titles in a row, will there be 100-story Hong Kong skyscrapers built in the shape of a swoosh?
James, of course, represented and won a gold medal for Team USA in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He has also worked hard to court the Chinese market, making promotional visits during the offseason.