As ad teasers go, this one was promising. On May 10, LeBron James retweeted a clip for a new commercial for Mountain Dew Rise. It featured the NBA champ . . . mowing the lawn of a tasteful bungalow? Major brand. Insanely famous person making a mundane task look cool with fantastic production values. OK, I’m listening.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) May 10, 2021
The full ad, released May 13 and created by TBWA/Chiat/Day and directed by F. Gary Gray (Friday, Straight Outta Compton, Fate of the Furious), stars James wondering where he’d be in life if he was the type of person who hit snooze every morning. We see him doing everyday stuff like washing clothes at the laundromat, watching cartoons in the middle of the day, and mowing the lawn of his still tasteful bungalow. Of course this is LeBron James, so even if he’s not vying for NBA GOAT, he still manages to be the best at something: salsa king!
No doubt that Mountain Dew will get a huge image boost for Rise, but the real winner here is LeBron.
Mountain Dew’s parent company PepsiCo pulled off a sponsorship coup in March, convincing James to leave Coca-Cola after 17 years to come pitch for the other team. The overall deal will include endorsing brands across PepsiCo’s food and beverage lineup, but it starts as the face of Rise. At the time, LeBron said, “It’s important to me that I believe in the brands and products where I invest my time. When I first learned about the message behind the drink—the fact that every day is a chance to rise for all of us—that really resonated with me.”
This is a good Mountain Dew Rise commercial. But it’s a great ad for the ethos and enterprises that make up LeBron Inc. Sure, we see him grab a Rise out of his strangely organized fridge, but the rest of the ad is essentially about James and his accomplishments on the NBA court and beyond. We see references to his I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, and various entertainment projects through his SpringHill Company to “tell stories and empower creators.” He even ends the spot by getting on the phone with his CEO and right-hand man Maverick Carter.
Of course, the unique, prolific partnership between Carter and James is what’s enabled the latter to take the notion of athlete-businessperson to mogul status. Steve Stoute, founder of the ad agency Translation, referenced the vital role Carter plays for James, compared to other pro athletes. “But do they have a Maverick Carter? Because if you don’t have a Maverick Carter, you ain’t building shit,” told Fast Company.
James isn’t a hold-the-can-and-smile endorser. He and his SpringHill colleagues are always deeply involved in his brand work and how these partnerships can benefit both sides. James is the rare figure who can completely dominate an ad to the point of making the product secondary, and yet still provide the boost PepsiCo was looking for. Slam dunk.