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How Lebron's entourage got his decision on ESPN

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by Clips/Roxfan, Jul 11, 2010.

  1. Clips/Roxfan

    Clips/Roxfan Member

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    How LeBron's Entourage Got His 'Decision' on ESPN

    NBA Free Agent Hooked Up With Uber-Agent 
Ari Emanuel for Show Touted as Ad 'Paradigm'


    By Rich Thomaselli

    Published: July 12, 2010



    NEW YORK - By now you've heard the offense against basketball star LeBron James' one-hour TV special to announce his team choice -- that it was narcissistic, sullied his brand and blurred the journalistic line for ESPN. But what you haven't heard is the defense of the man who helped put the show together: uber-agent Ari Emanuel, who says "The Decision" forwarded the paradigm for advertiser-funded programming.

    In an exclusive interview with Advertising Age, Mr. Emanuel, co-CEO of the William Morris Endeavor agency, helped fill in some of the gaps on the backstory of how the program came together, and addressed the naysayers. "Everybody can say what they want -- it was the wrong decision, there was too much hoopla, whatever -- but for me it was about doing the event, getting the advertisers to participate and doing it for charity," Mr. Emanuel said. "This was a major success for advertisers, and we're getting closer to pushing the needle on advertiser-content programming."


    The 60-minute special featured two presenting sponsors in Microsoft's Bing and the University of Phoenix, as well as advertisers such as State Farm, VitaminWater and McDonald's. All of them, except for the University of Phoenix, already have endorsement deals with Mr. James, who announced that he would be leaving his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers after seven seasons for the Miami Heat.

    Nike and VitaminWater sibling Sprite (VitaminWater is produced by Glaceau, which is part-owned by Coke) are within Mr. James' endorsement stable but elected not to advertise and agreed to make matching contributions. That led to speculation online that some sponsors did not want to be part of the 10 minutes of national ad time on a program the Washington Post called an "orgy of excess."

    Mr. Emanuel said all sponsors who were approached had the choice to advertise on the program or contribute and did not comment further. Sprite could not be reached at press time, and Nike did not return a call for comment.

    ESPN donated the block of time and agreed the ad revenue would be donated to charity. All told, the program generated $6 million in ad revenue with the biggest chunk -- some $2.5 million -- donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Ann Arbor, Mich.-based sponsorship-evaluation firm Joyce Julius & Associates said the eight brands featured in the show received $2.9 million in equivalent ad time.

    Nielsen said overnight ratings for the Thursday-evening special averaged a phenomenal 7.3 in the nation's top 56 markets. The telecast peaked with a 9.6 rating from 9:15-9:30 p.m. when the program shifted to Mr. James' interview with freelance sportscaster Jim Gray and Mr. James officially made the announcement. That marks the highest non-NFL rating on ESPN this year and blew away the network's exclusive interview with shamed golfer Tiger Woods on March 21 (0.4 rating) and its interview with baseball star Alex Rodriguez in February of 2009 (0.9 rating) after he admitted using performance-enhancing drugs (for other comparisons, see chart, P. 2-3). Visitors also spent a 130 million collective minutes on espn.com on Thursday.

    Ironically, the hour-long special almost never made it to ESPN. From multiple interviews with executives comes an interesting tale of how it came together.

    How it began

    It began when Mr. Emanuel was sitting with media mogul David Geffen at an NBA Finals game in Los Angeles last month and was approached by Mr. James' business manager, Maverick Carter, and Mr. Gray. The group talked about how best to announce Mr. James' team choice and settled on the concept of a TV show. Mr. Emanuel looped in William Morris Endeavor partner Mark Dowley, the former McCann Erickson vice chairman.

    Mr. Dowley and Mr. Carter began contacting advertisers and looking for a home for a show, with the idea that the proceeds from ad revenue would go to charity. Originally, discussions were with ESPN's Walt Disney Co. sibling ABC, but a date could not be found.

    The plan was then to have Mr. James make his announcement in a special on ESPN on July 14, prior to the network's annual ESPY awards show. After the announcement of where he would play next season and the conclusion of the one-hour show, Mr. James would then walk onstage during the live telecast of the 18th annual event from Los Angeles and present the night's first award.

    But Mr. Emanuel and other executives indicated that the way the NBA's free agency was structured made it not suitable to wait until July 14. Players could begin negotiating at midnight July 1, but could not actually sign a contract until July 8, and NBA salary-cap considerations for each team would also play a part in where free agents would end up and what teams could afford to sign what players.

    Not to mention the 24-7 media cycle would make it difficult to keep a lid on the news. On the morning of Mr. James' announcement, two media outlets reported that he booked six suites at the W Hotel South Beach this weekend to celebrate.

    Once July 8 was chosen as the date, all ESPN Exec VP-Content John Skipper, ESPN/ABC Sports President-Customer Marketing and Sales Ed Erhardt and Exec VP-Production Norby Williamson needed to do was clear the space.

    But even that wasn't quite so easy once the network began receiving backlash about blurring the journalistic line. AOL Fanhouse columnist Milton Kent said ESPN "traded integrity for ratings."

    "John Skipper and I had a long, long conversation about this," Mr. Emanuel said. "We went through everything. He presented all of his issues surrounding this. John Skipper went through the checklist and said they weren't doing this unless they were completely satisfied."

    Mr. Williamson said it was a unique situation. "It contains newsworthy content that I think any other television or media company would love to have the opportunity to offer," he said. "We spent a lot of time vetting it out."

    Mr. Emanuel did not discuss the possible Hollywood brouhaha over the fact that he and William Morris helped broker this deal when Mr. James is a client of rival Creative Artists Agency.

    As to the issue of whether this will hurt Mr. James' brand, only time will tell. But the superstar and his entourage sure are taking a beating.

    But not everyone agrees. "I don't think it damaged his brand," said sports-marketing expert Bob Dorfman, partner in the San Francisco agency Baker Street Partner. "Yes, there is that cynical side of it that says he didn't need to do it this way. But there was so much attention being paid to this, and so many people wanted to hear the news that TV was the most efficient."
    What They're Saying About LeBron James

    "You can't spell James without 'me,' and it's more difficult to defend James for this arrogant exercise than it is to defend him in the pick and roll."
    --Ethan Skolnick, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

    "James isn't an athlete. That's too confining. He is a 'brand.' So while some of us shake our heads at the nonsense of turning a career decision into a prime-time TV production, others of us marvel at the way LeBron is playing the game. And we're not talking basketball."
    --Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati Enquirer

    "It's an hour-long mental masturbation about the wonder of LeBron."
    --Gregg Doyel, CBSsports.com

    "You want to give to charity, quietly write a check. Don't get a network to do it for you so it gets to pump its shows and you get to shower yourself in international coverage -- while calling it philanthropy. The NBA has embarrassed itself here. The media have embarrassed themselves. And a guy who calls himself 'King' may be beyond embarrassment, which is truly embarrassing."
    --Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press

    "LeBron's team wanted to keep people talking and promote his website, and really, that's what happened. The man nearly exploded Twitter and melted ESPN. He transcended free agency, the World Cup, everything."
    --Bill Simmons, ESPN.com


    http://adage.com/article?article_id=144882
     
  2. RoxSqaud

    RoxSqaud Member

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    Lebron, decision, ESPN

    Words I never wanna hear again.
     
  3. krnxsnoopy

    krnxsnoopy Contributing Member

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    Wow his life is really 'the Entourage'..

    [​IMG]

    Lebron and his four horsemen... and he has his own Ari Gold.. Except he has the real one: Ari Emmanuel.

    [​IMG]

    Instead of Flushing, Queens to LA, he goes from Akron, Ohio to Miami.
     
  4. rockets934life

    rockets934life Contributing Member

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    Lebron's dirty laundry seems to be coming daily now, amazing from Savior to Super Villian in 28 minutes.

    Reminds me of....

    [​IMG]
     
  5. DontTradeOswalt

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    HA!!! :p
     
  6. RV6

    RV6 Contributing Member

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    6 million in revenue....2.5 given to boys and girls club, where's the rest?

    I remember asking if the full 6 mill would go to charity when the number first came out. Seems like it didnt and that's a shame.
     
  7. Coach AI

    Coach AI Contributing Member

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    My opinion of Jim Gray has changed completely because of all of this.

    Changed, meaning, now I actually have one.
     
  8. TISNF

    TISNF Member

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    He's a slimeball who cried when The Malice in the Palace hurt his wittle feewings.

    David Stern better put a stop to this in the future.
     
  9. Depressio

    Depressio Contributing Member

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    I didn't read that because it's in the realm of TLDR, but I came up with my own theory today.

    ESPN got its hands on a confirmed story about Delonte and LeBron's mom. The blackmailed him into doing his decision on ESPN for ratings in exchange for not running the story.
     
  10. trueroxfan

    trueroxfan Member

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    starting now!
     
  11. francis 4 prez

    francis 4 prez Contributing Member

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    ESPN donated the block of time and agreed the ad revenue would be donated to charity. All told, the program generated $6 million in ad revenue with the biggest chunk -- some $2.5 million -- donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

    it just says the biggest chunk went to the boys and girls club, not that that was all that went to charity. for all i know, the other 3.5M went to the Human Fund, but the article certainly makes it sound like it still went to charity.



    i don't understand all of the "journalistic integrity" criticism ESPN is getting for all of this. it's not like they're covering the watergate scandal and then doing buddy-buddy interviews with nixon. their general job isn't digging into the truth of the most important news stories affecting the world; they tell us where rich guys will be throwing and catching and shooting balls in upcoming years. they televise things of interest in the sports world. that's their raison d'etre. and this certainly seemed to qualify. this was basically the biggest free agency decision we've seen in sports, that based on the ratings obviously generated a tremendous amount of interest, and ESPN, the biggest sports network around, decided to televise it and lots of people watched. questioning lebron and crew for suggesting something like this is perfectly reasonable. questioning espn for televising it isn't. are they worried if espn it too close to lebron they won't properly criticize his next poor shooting performance or something? the only thing i question is why they donated the block of time with such huge ratings in the offing. i guess the 5 hours of sportscenter on either side of The Decision probably got larger than normal viewership.
     
  12. NotInMyHouse

    NotInMyHouse Contributing Member

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    All those mouth's LeBron is responsible for are hungry. It's hillarious how so many peopl tried to rationalize James' BS with the "it's for charity cries". Yeah, right. It's not for charity unless someone is getting paid.
     
  13. TISNF

    TISNF Member

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    Hmm, pretty interesting thought. It wouldn't shock me, except for the fact that the "rumors" have been discussed on nearly every message board -- eventually someone would be getting the story (I hope it's true and I can't wait for it!!).

    At this point it appears to be what was reported: the slime ball Jim Gray convinced the vulnerable attention w**** Maverick Carter this would be win-win for everyone. I give Emanuel credit as nothing more than a slick deal-maker: he did his job and did it better than anyone could have. I jsut hope this doesn't become a trend.

    I bet Nike is pissed; they tried to stop this, but Carter wouldn't listen. Think about it: Nike has to completely abandon their previous "Witness" campaign. Sure, they can (and likely will) play off the trio, although Wade's Jordan affiliation always seems to be separate and "above" Nike, so this could be interesting.

    However, Nike understands PR, and they'll have to put a lot of work into rebuilding the perception of LeBron's brand, now more so that he's sharing the spotlight.
     
  14. krnxsnoopy

    krnxsnoopy Contributing Member

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    I don't think thats it. Blackmailing Lebron James will not go so well for ESPN.
     
  15. white lightning

    white lightning Contributing Member

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    Jim Gray was on the Dan Patrick show last week and basically said it was his own idea. He brought it to Maverick during the game, then at a steakhouse after the game when Maverick was eating with Geffen he approached them again.
     
  16. MiracleShot

    MiracleShot Member

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    [​IMG]
    Ahahaha this never gets old
     
  17. Easy

    Easy Boban Only Fan
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    The charity part is one of the most disgusting things in this whole deal. It's a textbook case of dirty businessmen using charity as a cheap deodorant to make their stuff stink less and failing completely. It's adding insult to injury.

    LeBron James has just taken over Kobe Bryant's place as the most hated superstar basketball player.
     
  18. TheRealist137

    TheRealist137 Member

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    The biggest bs was lebron saying he made his decision the day of the event. He had Miami in his sights for a while. Everyone knew what was going to happen the entire time. They played us all.
     

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