LeBron James has made no secret of his desire to become a global icon, the sort of cultural force who moves products all over the world and generally changes the face of basketball. Yet, until he wins multiple championships, or becomes well-liked on a level that even Biff Loman could never have dreamed of, that's probably a ways off.
Nevertheless, James continues to reach out to other markets with endorsement opportunities. Except, instead of repping a basketball brand or an insurance company, he's going to China for Dunkin' Donuts. From Eveline Danubrata for Reuters (via Business Insider):
Dunkin' Brands Group Inc (DNKN.O) also announced a multi-year marketing agreement on Monday with National Basketball Association star LeBron James, who has a big following of Chinese fans. The company now has about 150 stores in China, the world's second-largest economy.
"Donuts are a very flexible product. You can do savory donuts, you can do donuts with shredded pork -- that's in China," Chief Executive Officer Nigel Travis told Reuters in an interview. [...]
Dunkin' Brands picked James as its brand ambassador in Asia partly due to the Miami Heat star's huge appeal in China, Travis said. James will promote Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins through advertising, online media and in-store marketing, as well as personal appearances at certain locations.
I'm not entirely sure when "brand ambassador" became an acceptable euphemism for "compensated endorser," but no one ever said the path to global iconography had to make sense. There are also some questions as to why Dunkin' Donuts doesn't offer pork donuts in America, because those things could become this country's newest sensation. Look out, McGriddle -- there's a new sweet-and-savory champion in town!
If this endorsement sounds ridiculous for a player who's supposed to take himself as serious as LeBron, take note of the fact that famous actors have been doing ridiculous ads in Asia for many years. In fact, shilling for donuts is positively noble next to what we've seen from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and many others.
So don't give LeBron too much guff for this new business relationship. Not everyone is so lucky to work with the director of "Spy Kids: Game Over."
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