On December 2, LeBron James will return to Cleveland, Ohio when his new team, the Miami Heat, plays his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron’s handling of his departure left many Cleveland fans bitter. This video, created by a Virginia Marti College of Art and Design student, captures how many Clevelanders feel, as evidenced by its huge popularity on YouTube (more than 3 million views as of today).
So what can we expect when our former favorite son comes home? And can we turn this event into a positive public relations experience for Cleveland?
Here’s what a panel of public relations experts had to say on this topic at this morning’s NOCA (Northeast Ohio Communications Advocates) Forum meeting at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and some observations from this marketing strategist.
What if We DIDN’T Boo?
Even though the Cavs are doing quite well without him, feelings about LeBron’s dissing of Cleveland on national TV remain raw. Emotions are high and he’s sure to be roundly booed every time he touches the ball.
In an ideal world, PR pros would advise us not to boo him, to rise above and avoid letting him (and the world) know how mad we still are. We can hope Cavs fans take the high road, but that’s not likely in such an emotional situation. We need to be realistic about the vocal reception LeBron probably will get from Cavs fans, and we also should expect Cavs management to play it cool and set a good example.
An Opportunity to Celebrate Cleveland
It’s easy to see LeBron as the villain and Cleveland as the victim. We’d all like a vindicator to “make it right.” But the marketing experts at the NOCA Forum believe we need to vindicate ourselves, by moving on from the past and relishing the future.
Even though the national media continues to focus on what LeBron’s departure says about Cleveland, we should use our upcoming moment in the media spotlight to show we’re bigger than our hurt feelings. Their advice: Celebrate what’s great about Cleveland, including the success the Cavs enjoyed when LeBron was a member of our team.
How Not to Get Fooled Again
The fact is, Cleveland is a great place to live, with extraordinary assets, a high quality of life, and a thriving business community. I’ve never regretted our decision to move our family to Cleveland and start a marketing consulting firm here 18 years ago.
In my view, we’re partly to blame for appearing to the world like a jilted lover. We treated LeBron as a savior, as the one who would lead us to greatness. We gazed at a giant mural of LeBron with his arms spread wide. We called him King James. We weren’t fans, we were witnesses.
But we put too much stock in a young, gifted, and capricious athlete whose main goal was personal success. Would I like Cleveland to win a national sports championship? You bet. But what I’d really like is for Cleveland to get the respect it deserves as a terrific place to work and live. And that has very little to do with one young man’s ability to put a ball through a hoop.