As every sane basketball fan knows, Miami Heat forward LeBron James is corporate swine who would rather make a profit than teach children the benefit of proper eating habits and exercise. As such, he recently teamed up with McDonald's for a set of new ads built around their annual Monopoly giveaway game.
Usually, these sorts of ads present the compensated celebrity endorser as an everyday guy who just likes to eat processed chicken with regular pals at his local convenient-service restaurant. LeBron's a special case, though, because most people familiar with his work currently think he's an arrogant jerk who can't be bothered to think about the lives of real Americans. He cannot mingle with the masses because they want no part of him.
The solution is simple: self-deprecation. In this commercial, LBJ sits at a McDonald's table alone as a kindly announcer notes that the odds of LeBron James winning seven championships (you know, the claim he made at last summer's foolish Miami welcome party) are 1 in "oh silly disembodied voice, LeBron would really like you to stop ribbing about that comment because we are all friends here." Thankfully, anyone who participates in this fun game will have a 1-in-4 chance to win a free order of fries. Have you tasted those things? They are like tater cocaine.
It's important to note that LeBron playfully acknowledges a joke at his expense rather than mocking himself directly. The goal here is not to present himself as ridiculous -- it's merely to show that he's self-aware and can handle a few zings at his expense. In other words, LeBron needs to appear open to criticism and generally attuned to what people dislike about him. He can still be a global icon and a supernaturally talented athlete. He just has to realize that sometimes he acts like a high-grade moron.
Then again, LeBron may be so far past normal athlete image maintenance that this sort of brand cleanup won't help one bit. In the end, he may only win fans back when he achieves the multi-championship glory he promised in July 2010. When it comes to James, expectations don't change easily.