Does LeBron James really need to rehabilitate his image? Nike seems to think so, or at least it wants to make sure basketball-shoe-loving consumers haven't deserted the NBA star, who this summer famously (or infamously) deserted the Cleveland Cavaliers to take his talents to South Beach and play with fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Nike and its longtime agency Wieden & Kennedy have rolled out a new campaign, "Rise," that lets LeBron address "his off-season controversy head-on," as Nike said as it announced the effort.
This 90-second spot broke today on YouTube and will appear on TNT Tuesday as the NBA season kicks off with a game between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics.
What the Stacy Wall-directed spot really does is let LeBron get a few jabs in at Charles Barkley, who during the off-season turned out to be one of LeBron's more vocal critics. (I wonder how Barkley's new round of T-Mobile commercials, which co-star Dwayne Wade, are going to work out?)
The spot asks, "What should I do?" It's meant to be rhetorical, though one answer could be "Not star in this self-serving spot." I commend Nike for sticking by one of its biggest brand ambassadors. And by trying to take a measure of control of the conversation, it's also making sure that one of the answers to the questions raised in the spot is "Just do it."
So maybe Nike hopes some of its brand equity will rub off on LeBron. But the last time Nike tried a stunt like this, with Tiger Woods, the effort didn't go over too well.
What do you think? Is Nike's "Rise" effort the wrong tack to take?