Lessons from the Demise of a Brand

Most of America has watched LeBron James destroy his personal brand over the last  week. I know, I know. America is also sick of hearing about his decision and the repercussions of his decision. However, King James’ decision provides lots of learning opportunities on what not to do when it comes to your personal brand.

LeBron James handled the announcement of his decision poorly and allowed it to severely damage his brand. Instead of remaining The Chosen One, he is being vilified by the media, nearly slandered by Dan Gilbert, and do I even need to elaborate on what New York Knicks’ fans think of him?

So, what did LeBron James do wrong?

MISTAKE #1: He lost control of the situation.

James is being criticized for being overly zealous by announcing his decision during an hour-long special on ESPN. It is incredibly doubtful that the ESPN special was LeBron’s decision. He has never been an “all eyes on me” individual and, if you watched the special, it was obvious he was uncomfortable.

What happened? The hype just kept getting more hype. Everyone wanted to know what LeBron was going to do. Larry King asked him about it during an interview in early June. In early July, teams started meeting with LeBron – in Cleveland. As the hype grew, ideas about how to announce his decision grew bigger. In the end, ESPN leveraged their influence and the rest is history.

LESSON: Manage your own brand. Make your own decisions.

MISTAKE #2: He allowed the situation to define him.

Prior to his announcement, LeBron James was admired by most, and hated by few. Now, unfortunately the opposite is true. LeBron had never won an NBA championship, but America still though of him as a champion, a hero, and a role model. Now, he is being called narcissistic, egotistical, self-absorbed, greedy, and selfish – among other things. In less than one hour, James managed to nearly destroy everything he stood for.

If LeBron had stayed true to himself, he would not be taking so much heat. No pun intended.

LESSON: Stay true to your brand. Stay true to yourself.

MISTAKE #3: He didn’t capitalize on the power of his brand.

LeBron wants a championship. No one can fault him for that. LeBron has (or had) arguably the most powerful brand in the NBA. He allowed other people to play too large of a role in his decisions, particularly Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

If Wade and Bosh truly wanted to play with LeBron, and LeBron had excercised his power, they would all be wearing Cavs jerseys next season.

LESSON: Believe in the power of your brand. Believe in yourself.

Your personal brand is a reflection of yourself. If you do not manage your brand, someone will manage it for you. Albeit, perhaps not how you would have liked. In the end, you have to live with your brand.


Claudine Meilink is a Career Services Consultant for the Center for Career Opportunities (CCO) at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Among other things, Claudine provides career and major counseling to students and alumni and assists employers with achieving their recruitment goals at Purdue. She is also a die-hard LeBron James fan. Claudine would love to connect with you on twitter orLinkedIn.

Related posts:

  1. Branding Lessons From Commerical Brands
  2. Personal Branding Lessons from Pop Culture
  3. Pump Up Your Brand with Your Strengths and Interests

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