Lebron James: the Elements of Personal Branding

Introduction

Lebron James fits within a genre of personal branding. This essay will outline elements such as content, style and narrative structure of this brand and explain how its core problematic is examining racial discourses in society as well as creating equality.

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I would describe the brand of Lebron James as a hybridisation of multiple genres. His brand does not seem to fit just one genre but could be classified as more than one. I would classify the genre of his brand personal and athletic.

Who (or what) makes things happen?

Out of the seven spheres of action I would say that Lebron James’s brand falls under the donor, helper and hero. The donor and the helper share similarities amongst them and but they both describe what Lebron’s brand stands for. Lebron gives back to those in need through many initiatives and he is also committed to helping others. On and off the court he strives for equal opportunity for others by voicing his opinion and donating money to organizations. The hero was an easy selection to describe Lebron James as a person and a brand because he is an influential role model to many kids and adults. He has changed the lives of many and is not only a sports icon but a respectful role model.

Whose point of view is the story told from?

The narrator and main person involved would be Lebron James. He personally represents the brand and founded it. The overall personality that personifies the brand would be that it is inspirational especially towards younger people, because of his influence on his younger audience. People would see Lebron’s name and automatically associate it with an elite athlete. Since Lebron’s story is meaningful, there are signs of “catharsis” involved because the audience feels emotionally connected to his story. This allows for emotional engagement from the audience and lets them connect with the narrator on a deeper level. Lebron’s personal branding gives us a glimpse into his life and the different aspects that shape how he is as a person. On his website, there were plenty of action shots that help the audience identify with him and the brand. These action shots include him playing basketball and his involvement with basketball off the court. Emergent transmedia also plays a role in how the audience interacts because they can produce new content that will change the narrative path of Lebron’s story. Lebron’s narrative is always susceptible to change because he plays in the NBA which is considered a business. When free agency comes around, he has the option to potentially sign with another team. This allows for the audience to alter his narrative by buying new jerseys or purchasing season tickets. The people are positioned to accept certain viewpoints based upon what team Lebron plays for and also through his political views.

What structural roles do people have in the narrative?

I would say that there are not many minorities cast as the victims as part of Lebron’s narrative. He has voiced his opinion before on why he does not support Donald Trump. In a past article, he has called Donald Trump “a bum” after the treatment his friend. Trump was disrespectful towards NFL players kneeling during the anthem. Lebron has made his political viewpoints clear on his social media which makes his followers perceive his hidden ideological messages through his viewpoints. He wants Donald Trump to be classified as “the villain” resulting in his audience having to conform to one side. Donald Trump could serve as a “hinderer” in this context because of how he is getting in the way of what Lebron’s dominant discourse is of representing racial equality.

What is the dominant discourse (or the hierarchy of discourses?)

The term “discourse” refers to how dominant ideas and point of views are put forth by people. Discourses can be communicated in different ways and allow people to voice their opinions. It also allows for marginalized groups to be heard and allows for transparency. Understanding the discourse that surrounds the brand of Lebron James is beneficial for comprehending his beliefs in society. Lebron’s brand can be understood as a moral discourse because he has a large platform to say what his beliefs are and also how he feels about world issues. Lebron is very active in community engagement and standing up for what he believes in. Morally, he wants to do what is right and he speaks freely of what is on his mind. His brand stands behind this because the motto is “strive for greatness”. He wants to see his supporters succeed and also wants them to do the right thing. This comes into play with his social values because he wants his brand to be focused around his athletic career and the ideas and beliefs he is invested in. The dominant discourse in Lebron’s case could be seen as a mix between residual as well. The dominant discourse that he wants for his audience to understand is equality among African-Americans not only in sports but also in society. This can be seen as assertive because it is a discourse that many people want to follow and reduce the stigma around. Unfortunaly, it can be seen as a residual discourse because there are people in society that will stick to racist tendencies and discriminate against marginalized groups. It is important to Lebron that he is a voice for those that suffer from unequal opportunities. He introduces forms of dominant and even residual discourse into his brand to help with the racist ideological people that do not fully agree with him. He stands behind these beliefs because last year he opened up a public school called “I Promise” in his hometown of Akron, Ohio to help kids who feel as if they don’t belong. He uses mass media as a form to speak what his beliefs are and how he wants to make a social impact. Lebron’s voice is authoritative and truthful because he has made sure that his discourses and ideologies are helping the community. The textual ancourage that supports this would be the pictures of Lebron helping the community on both his Instagram and his website platforms. This allows for the audience to develop a deeper meaning of Lebron’s values and lets them visually recognize what he is doing off the court.

Are women positioned differently from men in the narrative? Or what various positions of people play in the narrative?

The role of binary oppositions is to split differences in the world so that there can be arbitrary categories. This allows for interpretation and opposing sides of the spectrum that some people may not agree on. It creates personal preferences and gives people the opportunity to choose what they believe in. An example for Lebron’s brand would be the opinion on privilege and race. There are still people in the world that question whether racism exists or not. Binary oppositions splits this into two and examines how race is socially constructed. I would say that the S.E.A.R.C.H. acronym is important for understanding the brand viewpoint especially in race and class. Race is a dominant discourse that LeBron stands behind, it is only right that he makes this one of the most important topics behind his brand. Going back to the I Promise school, it allows for people of colour to have equal opportunity in the classroom and it also ties in with the class category because it helps families with financial problems. The school also allows “free tuition to the university of Akron when the students finish school” as well as “job placement aid for the parents of the students”. The school serves as a personal connection to Lebron’s childhood. He missed school because his mother found it difficult to find proper housing and the ability to afford it. In terms of class, Lebron wants to give kids in the city of Akron who are struggling the chance to attend school and get a proper education without parents worrying about their income.

What does the ending mean?

I think that the ideological messages are reinforced by the brands resolution. Lebron had proved through his school that he is committed to providing equal opportunity and standing up for his beliefs on race. Lebron also never went to college because he went straight to the NBA from high school. This created some uproar because people thought he wasn’t going to be ready or that he should have gotten a college degree. He has defied these odds and has become the best basketball player in the world. His whole brand meaning is to follow your dreams and to “strive for greatness”. I think that as an ideological message it has created an influential role model for people and provides a different insight on discourses surrounding class and race. This brand imposes a sense of order by highlighting different aspects of Lebron’s life and how he has made a difference in people’s lives. The binary opposition not only creates conflict, but it informs society that it is important to pay attention to ideological messages that one may not necessarily agree with. Instead of creating oppositions, we as a society should be more open to changes and emergent discourses that will shape the future. Lebron James is very active on his social media pages as well as his website. The social media he uses includes Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and his website. His website is simple yet very informative about his life. There are four subheadings titled “The Man, The Philanthropist, The Businessman and The Athlete” Each represents a different aspect of his life and gives the audience an opportunity to interact with him. “The Man” category features articles and photos of Lebron and his family. It provides insight on what it is like to be a dad and how he balances basketball with family. “The Philanthropist” is one of my favorite categories on the website because it shows all of the charity and community involvement of Lebron. It features his I Promise school and the Lebron Family Foundation which gives back to families in need. It also has a link to buy his “I Promise” wrist bands and it displays what purchasing one does for his school. “The Businessman” features a side of Lebron through his television stints and brand deals. Lebron has been involved in many television shows, films and he also announced last year that he would be releasing his own show called “Million Dollar Mile”. Finally, “The Athlete” features articles about LeBron’s life playing basketball and his own Nike shoe. These all represent Lebron’s ideological beliefs as well as giving his followers a glimpse of what it’s really like to be “Lebron James”. At the bottom of his website, there are links to his other social media accounts. He has added his own touch by placing his signature crown logo on the Twitter bird as well as the Instagram icon. An interesting concept that Lebron does around NBA playoff time is that he activates “Zero Dark Thirty Mode” and does not post on any social media accounts until playoffs are over. This is interesting because he completely disconnects from social media and teaches kids that it is good for them to take time off.

Conclusion

Overall, this brand successfully conveys a powerful message by representing its ideological beliefs and dominant discourses. The discourse of equality among African-American people is the main narrative behind this brand and attempts to produce a social change. This is a powerful brand for many because Lebron shows how he is more than just a basketball player and how he wants to be an influential leader in the community.

References

  1. Bonesteel, M., & Payne, M. (2017, September 23). LeBron James sticks up for Stephen Curry, calls President Trump a ‘bum’. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2017/09/23/lebron-james-sticks-up-for-stephen-curry-calls-president-trump-a-bum
  2. James, L. (n.d.). Lebron James. Retrieved from http://www.lebronjames.com/
  3. Kominiak, T. (2018, August 03). Did Lebron James just open the school of the future? Retrieved from https://www.k12insight.com/trusted/lebron-james-community-schools/
  4. O’Shaughnessy, M., Stadler, J., & Casey, S. (2016). Discourse and Ideology. In Media & Society(6th ed., p. 159). Australia: Oxford University Press.
  5. O’Shaughnessy, M., Stadler, J., & Casey, S. (2016). Discourse and Ideology. In Media & Society(6th ed., p. 161). Australia: Oxford University Press.
  6. O’Shaughnessy, M., Stadler, J., & Casey, S. (2016).Dominant Ideology and Hegemony. In Media & Society(6th ed., p. 183). Australia: Oxford University Press.
  7. O’Shaughnessy, M., Stadler, J., & Casey, S. (2016).Narrative Structure and Binary Oppositions. In Media & Society(6th ed., p. 251). Australia: Oxford University Press.
  8. O’Shaughnessy, M., Stadler, J., & Casey, S. (2016).Why Stories?. In Media & Society(6th ed., p. 288-289). Australia: Oxford University Press.
  9. Wong, A. (2018, August 24). 5 Reasons LeBron James’s School Really Is Unique. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/08/lebron-james-school-unique/568243/
07 April 2022

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