Nike and LeBron combine for the greatest shoe on earth, sports sales-wise
At the very least, they have high hopes that 13 proves to be a humongous money-making number.
The sports shoe and apparel giant generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually with LeBron signature shoe sales — and barring the unexpected, the upcoming LeBron 13 shoe should continue the trend.James is launching his newest Nike shoe at an event at the University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall at 7 p.m. Sunday before an audience of 2,000 students, residents and Cavaliers fans. The event is invitation-only, besides 150 tickets that were available to the public and quickly snatched up.
Forbes magazine, citing research firm SportScanInfo, reported earlier this year that Nike sold $340 million worth of LeBron James signature shoes from January 2014 to January 2015 — a 13 percent increase over the previous 12-month period. (Kevin Durant was runner-up with $195 million in shoe sales for Nike.)
For his part, James in 2014 earned $44 million in off-court endorsements, including the shoe sales, Forbes said.
That money, coupled with his $20.8 million salary, made James the sixth-highest paid athlete in the world for 2015, the magazine said. Boxer Floyd Mayweather came in at number one, at $300 million.
The current high-end LeBron 12 (also known as XII) Nike shoe has a top price of $320, with one iteration having a retail price of $145, according to Nike’s website. Basic math shows that well more than a million pairs of LeBron signature shoes need to be sold to reach $340 million in sales.
The business relationship between Nike and James pre-dates his NBA play. The Akron native signed a seven-year, $90 million contract shortly after graduating from high school in 2003.
LeBron signature shoes have been a top-seller in Northeast Ohio for years, said Robert Rosenthal, president and buyer for the local NEXT shoe and apparel stores. The shoes even sold well when James was playing in Miami, he said.
“He launches a lot of shoes. We sell a lot of his shoes,” Rosenthal said. “We’re obviously excited about the 13, as we are about all of his shoes.”
Typical buyers range from teen to mid-30s, he said. “There’s a collectables market.”
Rosenthal said he got an advance look at the LeBron 13 and thinks the shoe looks good. In previous years, he often had to buy signature shoes sight unseen.
“I think this is going to be a phenomenal shoe,” Rosenthal said. “He can sell virtually anything.”
People need to remember that James has provided a significant economic boost to the region with his return to Cleveland, Rosenthal said. The impact goes beyond just how well Cleveland restaurants and bars did during the NBA team’s regular season and playoffs.
“His effect on the entire marketplace is astounding,” Rosenthal said.
The effect of all of that money on James’ net worth is also astounding — an estimated $270 million to $300 million, according to differing reports. The wealthiest athlete is retired NBA star Michael Jordan, worth about $1 billion, according to Forbes.
James, of course, is more than just basketball and specialty athletic shoes.
Besides Nike, his other endorsement deals and ties with major companies include McDonalds, Samsung, Coca-Cola and Dunkin Donuts. He is part-owner of the Liverpool Football (soccer) Club, and has other investments.
He and longtime friend Maverick Carter created LRMR Management Co. to handle marketing and endorsements for James and other athletes – Cleveland Browns second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel is one of their clients. The business also has an affiliation with marketing firm Fenway Sports Group.
And he set up the LeBron James Family Foundation, which, among other things, supports Akron Public Schools and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. In August, the foundation announced it will work with the University of Akron to pay the full four-year cost for up to 2,300 Akron children to attend UA starting in 2021.