The 8 Greatest LeBron James Commercials
From the beginning, LeBron James was marketing gold. Hyped as the next Jordan when he jumped from high school to the NBA, LeBron’s role both on the court and in advertising was “the chosen one”. Here’s the crazy part: He actually lived up to the hype. On both fronts.
In the league, he’s won three titles and been the unquestionable best player for at least a decade. On the marketing side, he’s inked a ton of endorsement deals—including a lifetime one with Nike that may earn him over a billion dollars. The jury may still be out whether LeBron is as great as Michael Jordan, but he’s certainly followed in his mighty footsteps as a global marketing superstar.
As far as commercials go, LeBron’s always been a presence. But his commercials have gotten better as his story’s gotten better. From homespun golden boy turned treacherous villain turned redemptive hero, LeBron has one of professional sports’ best narrative arcs. And that has translated into great advertising.
What makes an athlete “good” in commercials?
Before we jump into LeBron’s best commercial work, let’s talk about what makes an athlete good in commercials. We’ve identified three things.
1. A natural, relaxed approach
2. You have to be into it and willing to stretch outside your zone
3. You need good concepts that emphasize your strengths, character, and personality
Is LeBron a strong commercial presence?
At this point in his career, LeBron hits all criteria noted above. While you may not initially think of him as a great commercial athlete, go back and watch 20-30 of his commercials. He’s shown a lot of versatility, and he adds something to almost every commercial he’s in—especially compared to many other athletes. Among top athletes of the 21st century (across sports), LeBron is definitely top tier.
8 Greatest LeBron Commercials To Date
LeBron’s appeared in dozens, probably hundreds, of commercials. But these are his masterpieces…
*Quick note: The majority of picks here are Nike commercials. This isn’t really too surprising since no brand uses athletes in commercials better than Nike. They just know how to tell their stories.
8. Training Day
This fun, propulsive 2013 Nike ad plays up LeBron’s image as both a superstar of the people and an athlete with an intense workout regimen.
7. The Beginning
This 2007 Nike spot correlates LeBron with “you” (the young kid out there). It begins with the great line “You don’t want to be LeBron James” and ends with the message “You want to be better than me”. Could also be read as a commentary on the constant references to LeBron as “the next Jordan”.
This 2008 black-and-white Nike commercial focuses on LeBron’s iconic chalk toss. This act is part of his story and the commercial intercuts it with images of other working class professionals at work—barbers, teachers, bakers—reflecting LeBron’s image as a hard worker and man of the people.
This 2017 Sprite commercial has LeBron telling us he’s NOT going to tell us to drink Sprite. LeBron defies the sponsor in a whimsically planned way that underlines the idea of a LeBron as a leader, not a follower. The commercial also has a meta element (we see behind the camera) that points out the artificiality of athlete product pitches.
4. Swimming Pool
This 2006 Nike commercial is the best of “The LeBrons” ad series. It features LeBron doing what he did for so many years on the Cavs—carrying the whole thing on his back and somehow making it work. LeBron goes all-in on the concept here, and actually seems to be having fun (a rare thing for an athlete in a commercial).
3. Come Out of Nowhere
This 2016 commercial gets to the nitty-gritty of LeBron’s brand, positioning the star as the ultimate underdog on the heels of his historic NBA Finals comeback victory against the Warriors. Again, LeBron’s narration juxtaposes our story with his story—hitting on key aspects of his life while giving fire and inspiration to all the underdogs out there. And don’t we all see ourselves as underdogs?
2. At Home
This sneaky good Samsung Galaxy commercial from 2013 shows a different side of LeBron: at home with his family. It feels natural and completely unforced, and has a really fun and positive vibe to it. While most brands that snag a big athlete instinctively want to put them front and center talking to the viewer, this spot incorporates LeBron and the brand in a more subtle, interesting and effective way. And somehow the ad makes you like LeBron even more.
This Nike ad from 2014 opened a new chapter in LeBron’s career: His return and redemption in Cleveland. The spot emphasizes the LeBron-Cleveland connection—a deep and meaningful relationship with some real weight to it—and reminds us how athletes can transcend the game to unite and inspire people. From the beautiful black-and-white cinematography to the rousing score, this ad taps the emotions like the very best sports movies. It will give you chills.
THAT’S OUR OPINION…
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Listen to our podcast discussion of the best LeBron commercials…