With all the LeBron James news and the talk of skyrocketing ticket prices, ample TV appearances, out of control franchise valuations and all else round the Cavaliers, it will be interesting to see who the smart, calm head identify as key engagement opportunities around the LeBron return. Will brands try and tie up Kyrie Irving even more? How about Anderson Varejao, there flamboyant, international star soon to be a free agent? Do you roll with the ever-improving Tristan Thompson, or a rookie like Andrew Wiggins, with lots of upside? They all will surely get their fair share.
However a guy who could be an even better bet for brand stability is someone who won’t even put on a uniform. New head coach David Blatt. The skeptical may say Blatt is being thrown into a pressure cooker which could quickly spit him out, with wasted time and wasted money for brands. Very, very doubtful. Blatt, for the right brands, would be the safest investment this side of LeBron. Why? Teams now are investing more and more in the long term culture of an organization more than the quick fix. Blatt comes to the Cavs before LeBron as a global commodity; a successful basketball lifer who has a reputation for getting the respect of his players around the world, and one who gives that respect back. He is multi-lingual, multi-national and has turned very turbulent situations around in places like Russia and Israel, all the while keeping strong ties and respect with the hierarchy of NBA coaching circles. While Erik Spoelstra was somewhat of an unknown quantity outside of coaching circles when he took over the Miami Heat and gained LeBron, Blatt is a known international commodity who could become a coaching star regardless of the performance of his returning superstar now.
So what type of brands invest in a coach new to the NBA? Some will depend on his level of comfort doing things outside of his given duties. The goal is to win with the Cavs and focus there, but that doesn’t mean opportunities can’t arise. The low hanging fruit are apparel companies who can dress Blatt as he becomes a TV fixture during games. There are international brands on the business side like law firms and even law and tax firms that now spend dollars against having a key spokesperson with little public effort; it would be much more behind the scenes entertaining and talking hoops. Educational businesses could benefit from a well-traveled American who speaks several languages, and that is just the start. Yes, the choices have to be wise and incremental, with a look to the future as the team evolves.
The future should include a carefully picked coach as well as his superstar players, and if you are a brand looking to find a spot in the hubbub, grabbing its affordable rising star on the bench, might be a safer bet than grabbing one on the floor.