LeBron James has again switched teams, but Cavs fans don't need to worry. He's only switching restaurant chains.
The NBA powerhouse and McDonald's officially parted ways one year after his last commercial for the fast food giant aired. Now, Mr. James -- better known as King James -- can devote more attention to Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza, another restaurant he has had ties to since 2012.
Mr. James was named a McDonald's All-American back in 2003 before rising to fame with the Cleveland Cavaliers, then the Miami Heat, and once again with the Cavaliers. He signed an endorsement deal with the Golden Arches in early 2010 and then appeared in numerous commercials for the chain. However, his last spots for McDonald's, which promoted its Monopoly contest, aired back in October 2014.
Blaze announced Thursday that Mr. James, one of its founding investors, would take on a marketing role in a multiyear endorsement deal. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. At the same time, McDonald's said it and Mr. James "mutually decided to end the relationship."
"We have enjoyed watching LeBron James grow from a McDonald's All-American to a world-class champion and businessman. We greatly appreciate the exciting experiences and engagement he's provided McDonald's customers and his support of Ronald McDonald House Charities over the past several years. While the parties mutually decided to end the relationship, we wish him the best in his future endeavors."
The shakeup comes eight months after comments from the then-McDonald's endorser cooked up a little bit of scrutiny. Here's how he responded to a reporter's question about when he started really caring about his body, weightlifting and working out.
"I ate McDonald's my first couple of years in the NBA. I didn't stretch, I didn't ice, it didn't matter" Mr. James told reporters in February. He recovers soon after when asked the last time he ate McDonald's, and he repeatedly says "everyday" as reporters chuckle.
Mr. James was a founding investor in Blaze alongside Maria Shriver, Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner, film producer John Davis, and leading investor Paul Wachter, the company said. Mr. James will be involved in advertising, social media, in-store appearances, and other company campaigns, Blaze added. He is already a franchisee in Chicago and Miami in a deal with Larry Levy, the founder of Levy Restaurants.
"I initially invested in this company because I knew it was a special idea that offered something people would want," Mr. James said in a statement issued by Blaze. "Now I'm excited to go all in with Blaze Pizza in this new role and continue to give people a whole new experience."
Blaze is one of several growing chains focused on serving quick-fired pizzas. The fast-casual pizza industry is often compared to the way customers personalize their orders at Chipotle. And Chipotle is even in the mix, as an investor in the smaller Pizzeria Locale chain.
Blaze, which fires pizzas in about three minutes, has 88 locations and plans to have 200 by the end of 2016.
As McDonald's and Mr. James bid farewell, here's a look at some of his last spots for the chain and some of their earlier collaborations.
Promoting Monopoly in 2014:
Tweeting about McNuggets in 2013:
With Luol Deng in a 2012 Olympics-themed spot:
Remaking a famous 1993 McDonald's basketball commercial with Dwight Howard for 2010: