PR Tips | LeBron’s PR Tactics

PR Tips | LeBron’s PR Tactics

NBA star LeBron James made big, big news this month when he announced he’d be going back to the city he’s always loved and play for the Cleveland Cavaliers once again.

I have very close ties to the city myself, so when LeBron burned Cleveland — yes, the whole city, not just Cavs fans – four years ago by leaving the team, I witnessed the “pain and betrayal” Clevelanders felt first hand. You may recall LeBron’s spectacle, known as “The Decision,” where he announced on TV, after much hype, that he would be leaving Cleveland in the dust to head to the Miami Heat.

LeBron’s display has been widely called a PR disaster – the way in which he told fans he was leaving was what stung the most. Some fans at the time said they didn’t even blame him for leaving, but stabbing the city in the back on national TV was really hard to swallow.

This time around, he went small. Sure, the news of where LeBron would end up dominated headlines for a long time, but the way he made the announcement was much smarter. The news broke, and Sports Illustrated released a letter from LeBron himself online. It was as humble as a highly-anticipated letter about your choice to return to Cleveland in a national magazine could be. And it went over a lot better.

His recent letter to the fans of Cleveland and Miami was filled with sentimentalities about “home” and thanks to those who’ve helped him along the way. Four years later, LeBron knew better and so did the PR folks around him. The moral of this PR story: bigger isn’t always better.


Laura Scharfeld