There is no way that LeBron James made use of a decision engine when he was in the midst of making The Decision but that did not stop Microsoft’s Bing from getting deeply involved in the announcement. Never has such a display of hype been presented in the name of entertainment since Geraldo Rivera embarrassed himself in front of the world when he discovered two bottles of liquor in a vault in Chicago.
ESPN has scheduled an entire hour of programming around James announcement about which NBA team he will grace with his presence with for the next few years in exchange for millions of dollars. This chronicle of The Decision gets a coveted prime time slot. Bing was even featured in a prominent location on the basketball star’s website and identified as the its official search engine.
Was this a smart move for Microsoft? There is no doubt that Bing gets exposure to sports fans that number in the millions in addition to people who are only casually curious about what the free agency fuss is all about. Microsoft and James have had a working relationship for a long time so the software giant did not exactly jump on the LeBron bandwagon at the last minute.
James is catching flack however, as the sports media noted the pompous air surrounding this announcement as if it was the most important decision ever made in the history of the sport of basketball.
ESPN is not immune either. After all, they went out of their way to land the exclusive and agreed to a prime time slot for the program. Their concessions did not end there. James was allowed to choose the interviewer and received the right sell to sell advertising slots to companies that were selected by his camp. LeBron exhibited his generosity when he let it be known that the proceeds from those ads would go to support a prominent charity for children.
The fact remains that the program is little more than a sixty minute infomercial designed to promote James and selected business associates including Microsoft. It is likely that veteran fans of the sport will blame Microsoft and the others for developing something more suitable for a pro wrestling stunt than it is for an NBA announcement.
Microsoft has enjoyed great gains in market share with clever advertising but there should be a fear that participation in this spectacle will brand them as company that teamed up with an athlete who has angered more followers than Barry Bonds.