In March 2012, I covered a Hublot hosted event, in which the luxury watch brand revealed the King Power Miami Heat watch with Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem as models. At the time, people asked why Lebron James, the most recognizable face in the league, wasn’t included in the reveal. Actually, the media in attendance were notified that the late arriving James would not be interviewed on the red carpet. Unaware of the situation, members of the media whispered assumptions of bratty behavior as a result of being overlooked for current ring holders. However, he was inviting as he answered questions and posed a few feet away from the Hublot signage. There were still a few assumptions, but his charm silenced the speculation.
So, what does an international superstar do when he is the brand ambassador for the competitor of a brand partnered with the franchise who signs his checks? Complicated right? The previous year LeBron James began a cross-promotional partnership with Audemars Piguet, another high-end Swiss watchmaker. Then, Hublot goes beyond their brand ambassador partnership with Dwayne Wade and not only creates an official team watch, but also sponsors the whole team, adds a VIP lobby in American Airlines Arena, and becomes the official timekeeper of the Miami Heat.
Again, what does the face of the franchise and brand ambassador for Audemars Piguet do when the arena he calls home is filled with Hublot signage? Or when the championship celebration is presented by Hublot? Exactly what he has done. Remain aware. One photo in front of the competitor’s signage could be costly to his endorsement. Both he and Audemars Piguet knew the risks before partnering a month after Wade partnered with Hublot. Maybe they didn’t imagine the brand would be so close knit with the franchise. Or, perhaps it was a creative risk. Regardless, the brand partnerships seem to coexist well. It would be more of a story if a cross-promo branding blunder occurred with LeBron subconsciously promoting Hublot by walking the red carpet, or being pictured in front of signage during a carefree celebration.
The moral of the story, the celebrity in an endorsement relationship has to be responsible. For LeBron, the reward of the endorsement is obviously greater than the risk of being associated with the ever-present rival.
Extra Hublot event footage on my camera:
LeBron away from signage:
side note: I posted extra footage on Instagram yesterday of Pat Riley singing karaoke at another Heat event