Television and LeBron James: Still Kings of Their Courts

08.13.2018 David Gustafson

Television and LeBron James: Still Kings of Their Courts

Why TV Advertising Should Still be a Star Player on Your Local Business’ Advertising “Team”

Even if you’re not a sports fan, you’ve likely heard of LeBron James.  “King” James is largely considered one of the greatest basketball players in history, and ESPN recently ranked him as the most famous American athlete in the world today.  But you may not be as familiar with the parallels between LBJ and TV, the long-time king of local advertising.  Here’s a quick look at our “starting five” of similarities:


When LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2014-2015 season, sports writer and commentator Bill Simmons was quoted as saying, “Anyone who thinks LeBron looks the same is fooling themselves. He doesn’t have the same impulsiveness…just his general force-of-natureness capacity — whatever you want to say — it’s not there.”  A quick check of James’ career statistics could support Simmons’ assertion.  Compared to 10 years ago, LeBron’s scoring average this past season was down 8% and minutes played were down almost 9%.

On the TV side, technological advancements have made video content more accessible to more people on more devices in more locations than ever before.  The resulting narratives around cord-cutting, on-demand viewing, and over-the-top (OTT) streaming continually drive headlines about television’s failing health and impending death.  As with LeBron’s career stats, focusing on the past can fuel part of that speculation.  For example, the latest data from Nielsen show that the average U.S. adult spends about 7% less time watching television than in 2015.


As Mark Twain famously quipped, “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” 

In LeBron’s case, he still averaged 27.5 points per game during the 2017-2018 season – third best in the NBA – and he made his eighth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.  In the media world, Nielsen reports that traditional TV continues to reach nearly nine out of 10 U.S. adults every week.  In fact, the average adult today spends more than four hours a day watching Live, non-recorded TV, and the Video Advertising Bureau reports that TV accounts for 91% of all video consumed. 

Most importantly for local advertisers, television ads are effective!  A recently released Gfk/TVB study finds TV ads remain far and away the top choice for consumers when it comes to influencing purchase decisions.  Stephane Coruble, an executive with global ad firm RTL AdConnect, recently summarized television’s status, noting that “TV is still unrivaled when you think about its incomparable reach, quality content production, ad effectiveness…[and] its ability to adapt to all audiences.”


During this year’s NBA Eastern Conference Finals, when LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were battling the Boston Celtics, the Boston Globe ran a headline that read, “LeBron James needs help from his supporting cast — fast.”  The message was clear.  James was clearly the Cavs’ foundation, but the team needed more than just LeBron to maximize the potential for success.  From the advertising perspective, TV is quite similar.  As former StubHub CMO Jennifer Betka put it, “TV has an anchoring purpose in an overall media mix.”  Even other media recognize TV’s importance to that mix.  At this year’s Nielsen Consumer 360 conference, Nielsen Audio led a breakout session titled “You Can’t Unhear This” that focused on ways radio advertising can complement TV campaigns and increase the memorability of TV advertising.


In chronicling LeBron James’ positive impact on the careers of numerous veteran teammates, writer Shaun Powell concluded that James is “the rare high-volume scorer who can also win games by finding open teammates.”   A study by consulting firm Accenture earlier this year characterized TV in much the same way, noting that “Television has a significant enhancement, or ‘halo effect,’ on the impact of digital channels.”  For example, Accenture found that TV’s “Brand Awareness halo” actually contributes 27% of the return-on-investment (ROI) that advertisers typically attribute to Paid Search. 


Barely a month after LeBron and the Cavs lost to the Golden State Warriors in this year’s NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers signed “King” James to a four-year contract reportedly worth $153.3 million. Notably, the announcement from the Lakers did not focus on LeBron’s yesterday, but rather honed in on today and tomorrow.  Magic Johnson, LA’s president of basketball operations, said James “is the best player in the world” and brings the Lakers “a huge step closer” to returning to the NBA Finals.  Advertisers are finding success looking at TV in a similar vein.  As freelance columnist Monique Serbu observed in debunking TV’s death, “Plenty of folks still watch regular old TV.”  And perhaps ironically, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” stands out as a prime example of television’s health.  For the recently completed 2017-2018 season, TWD finished as the top entertainment show on TV based on the price of a 30-second commercial – with advertisers paying an average of $331,691 during second quarter of 2018, according to Standard Media Index.  


Luckily, you don’t need LeBron money – or even “Walking Dead” dollars – to make TV an effective part of your local advertising mix.  To learn more about how economical Cable TV can be for your local marketing efforts, check out “The Cost of a Television Commercial” by my colleague, Dan Glicksman.  Contact Cox Media today to get started on a customized advertising plan that can elevate your game by connecting your business with the customers who matter most…anyone, anywhere, any screen. 





About the Author

David Gustafson

As Cox Media’s Director of Linear & Audience Research, David plays a key role in the company’s usage and interpretation of TV audience data. With more than two decades of industry experience, David currently is a member of the Nielsen Local Policy Guidelines Committee (PGC) and VAB Measurement Innovation Task Force, as well as client advisor to Comscore. Known as “The Professor,” David’s articles combine his passion for writing with a penchant for concisely explaining complex topics.

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