AKRON, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- 08/08/08. Circle your calendar. By the time the United States Olympic team arrives in Beijing, China, on that day for the 2008 Summer Games, plans are in place to make basketball star LeBron James -- make that Brand LeBron -- into a global icon.
With plenty of help from Mr. James himself.
"As we're building our relationships, I don't look at it as endorsement deals," Mr. James said Monday at the inaugural LRMR Marketing Summit at the University of Akron, the superstar's hometown. "Maybe I did when I was younger. Now that I'm trying to form a business company, I look at you guys as partners."
LRMR Marketing is the sports marketing firm the Cleveland Cavaliers player formed with childhood friends Randy Mims, Maverick Carter and Rich Paul after his much-discussed May, 2005 split with agent Aaron Goodwin, who helped negotiate Mr. James' $90 million deal with Nike.
Current endorsement partners
LRMR invited representatives from the companies that Mr. James currently has endorsement deals with -- Coca-Cola, Nike, Microsoft, Bubblicious and Upper Deck trading cards, as well as several other small marketers -- to share ideas on how to slowly but surely build the LeBron brand.
August 8, 2008 -- or 08/08/08, which was in printed material handed out at the summit as well as emblazoned on several new black Nike "Witness" T-shirts -- is the target date. The goal is to turn Mr. James into the next Pele or Muhammad Ali, athletes who transcended their respective sports on a global stage.
"We have an opportunity here," Mr. Carter said. "But it's not something that we want to rush. We have to have a plan."
Mr. Carter seemed most impressed by the results of one of the breakout sessions in which the marketers -- which included Nike Senior Director of Basketball Sports Marketing Lynn Merritt and Microsoft VP/Global Sales and Marketing and Chief Media Revenue Officer Joanne Bradford -- came up with a plan called "Go Inside."
"Go Inside" would be the lynchpin of a social responsibility effort that's already started by Mr. James and his James Family Foundation in Akron, where his charitable efforts have been well documented. The marketers compared the "Go Inside" plan to Lance Armstrong's "Livestrong" message and its yellow bracelets, going so far as to say they would like to see the "Go Inside" message printed on Nike sweatbands that Mr. James wears during games.