The Decision Part II: A Study In Contrasting Marketing Styles

Four years ago, sports fans everywhere held their collective breath waiting for LeBron James to announce his momentous decision. What team would the best player in the NBA play for next season?

The ultimate decision came on prime-time TV, in front of an eager audience of millions. And it ended in heartbreak for Cleveland and Northeast Ohio (the home of this blog’s creator, creative agency MONSTERS Unlimited).

This time around the story had a different ending. Through a surprising twist—and the lucky bounces of a few ping-pong balls—LeBron is once again back with the Cleveland Cavaliers in Northeast Ohio.

For the region that experienced heartbreak in 2010, the narrative has now reversed itself. This time the story ends in triumph.

Different ‘Decisions’ for Addressing Your Audience

But “The Decision II” doesn’t just differ from “The Decision I” in its end result. It also provides contrasting examples of marketing execution…

The Decision (2010)

The first Decision was all about hype and bombast. With the buzz building, LeBron and his representatives did what they could to fan the flames.

It wasn’t that LeBron didn’t have a difficult decision to make (he definitely did), it’s that the James camp strategically turned that decision into marketing. The questionable end result was this:

Say what you will about the marketing behind the first Decision (and a lot has been said), it worked. It drew as many eyeballs to LeBron James as possible, raising his profile incredibly. And it had people talking for years.

The Post-Decision Response

In the wake of the Decision, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert posted this regrettable letter to fans decrying not just the Decision but LeBron’s character.

It was a reactive, classless choice, and no doubt one that had the Cavs PR people tearing their hair out. A poor marketing move—not to mention a highly unprofessional one.

The Decision II (2014)

The second Decision of LeBron’s career came on a much quieter note. The hype was already there, so there was no reason to fuel the fire.

Instead, the announcement of the Decision II came with this humble, well-written and downright elegant essay from LeBron James himself that was posted on Sports Illustrated.com:

LeBron James Decision II Announcement Essay

It’s a world away from the first Decision. And it should be. LeBron is a different player now, in a different place in his career, with different goals, appealing to a different audience.

In marketing, these are decisions we face everyday. How do we want to communicate with our audiences? How do we want them to react? What are goals with the communication, and how we can best accomplish them?

Sometimes we make good choices and communicate effectively. Other times, things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes the story ends in disappointment. This summer, in Northeast Ohio, the story ends in triumph.

Welcome back, LeBron.