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BizReport : Research archives : August 04, 2010

How public perception impacts brand

When it comes to public perception, the Internet has had a huge impact for celebrities, athletes - and the branding of celebrities and athletes. New research surrounding the Miami Heat's acquisition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh shows just how the Internet can change things.

by Kristina Knight

epoll.jpgIn the weeks leading up to what sports experts now call The Decision, sports radio, bulletin boards, websites and social networks were abuzz with speculation. Would LeBron stick with the Cleveland Cavaliers or leave his devoted fans - many of whom watched him grow up on a basketball court - to improve his chances of a quick NBA championship? What did he need to stay? What would give him the incentive to go? No one knew and LeBron wasn't saying - at least not until he was ready to announce his decision.

What happened? As the world knows, LeBron left the Cavaliers to become part of the Heat squad as did fellow free agent Chris Both. Meanwhile Dwayne Wade, who was already part of the team, decided to stick with his team. The results? Dwayne Wade's appeal is favorable while the appeal of LeBron and Chris are both down - spectacularly down.

E-Poll research shows that LeBron's appeal has fallen 38%. LeBron is now seen as 'over-exposed', less talented (falling from a 62 rating to a 57 rating post-decision) and less appealing (18 rating from a 33 rating). He is also seen as 'insincere' now where prior to his decision he was seen as sincere.

Should LeBron's decision be linked to historical atrocities? No. Do fans have the right to be angry? Yes. But the key is the brand - in this case LeBron.

The Internet has created a new breed of consumer, the kind which when angered will spread his or her anger anywhere they can. LeBron drew out his decision. LeBron promised he would always be a Cleveland guy. LeBron ultimately 'turned' on his fans - or at least that is how they see it. A bit more honesty and openness from the player would likely have gone a long way in easing his transition from Cavalier to Heat player.

What can brands - athlete, celebrity or product - take away? That people are talking more than ever. Brands need to be in social spaces, from bulletin boards to social networks, so that they know what is being said about them, why and so that they can stem the tide of anger before the brand is harmed.

Tags: brand marketing, brand recall, brand safety, E-Poll Research, LeBron James, public perception

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