Even if you’re not a diehard NBA fan or if you’re like me and have a “win a ring, then we’ll talk” approach to Lebron James, you have undoubtedly heard about what must be the most highly publicized and anticipated decision outside of recent presidential elections. As millions of sports and pop culture fans alike wait for tonight’s announcement on which franchise LBJ has decided to spend next season with, it is clear that we are all witnessing the power of word of mouth here. A few key thoughts and takeways on how WOM has been strategically integrated throughout this process and what it can teach us:
– Lebron was already an extremely popular topic in the sports and marketing worlds and his free agency had been discussed at great lengths in the media for well over a year now. So, this topic was already consistently in the WOM space and had historically engaged consumers emotionally (both positively and negatively). KEY TAKEAWAY: It’s always easier (and typically more successful) to create a concerted WOM campaign when there is existing buzz about your product/service. Before even diving into WOM efforts, ensure you have a “talkable brand” and that you provide experiences that customers would want to share with others.
– On Tuesday of this week, Lebron officially signed up for a Twitter account (@KingJames), which garnered over 200,000 followers before he even made his first tweet! As of Wednesday morning, Lebron landed on #7 of the Twitter trending list. KEY TAKEAWAY: While playing in the social media space should be part of your overall marketing approach, don’t get too caught up in things like quantity of followers. @KingJames has an impressive follow list, no doubt sparked by the fact that he joined Twitter days before his free agency announcement. The question is, “What will he do to provide value to his followers after tomorrow?”. Have a value-add plan for your Twitter / social media efforts. Unless you’re one of the most popular athletes in the world, you’re going to need to be interesting to keep followers.
– On Tuesday, the NBA paid to post Lebron James as an official “promoted trend” on Twitter. In May, ESPN launched a branded “Lebron Tracker” microsite and on Thursday of this week, Lebron will announce his free agency decision in an hour-long special being aired at 9pm on ESPN (which, coincidentally, was announced by an ESPN Magazine “insider”). We’re already seeing sponsor sign-ups and activation around ”The Decision” (http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=117779891601360&ref=mf). ESPN graphic promoting the special: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cnbcdotcom/4772533038/. On Wednesday of this week, Lebron announced via Twitter his new website, http://lebronjames.com/. KEY TAKEAWAY: While we go to great lengths to ensure our WOM tactics are genuine and, at times, carry the allure of spontaneity, strategy plays a significant role in everything you do to market yourself. It’s safe to assume that Lebron’s camp planned every step of this outreach well in advance, from the timing of his Twitter/website launch, to partnering with ESPN on the announcement, to integrating existing sponsors into the fold. And, as always, timing is everything. If you can push your message out at a time where ears are open and waiting, you better be flexible and strike when the gettin’s good!
*A few noteworthy stats: @KingJames acquired over 200,000 followers before his first tweet and is currently almost at 300,000…with only three tweets to the account. As of this morning, “Lebron James” was the #3 Hot Topic and #2 Hot Search on Google.