LeBron James and "Despicable Me" on Tuesday provided an intriguing contrast for marketers who are trying to get a better read on Twitter as an advertising platform. James had a superb debut on Twitter in an effort that was essentially cost-free, while Universal Pictures' animated movie paled in comparison - even though it was the "Promoted Tweet" on the site's homepage for the day.
The pro basketball star launched his Twitter presence (@KingJames) in the early afternoon. By 7:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, James had 151,741 followers. Outside media relations outreach, no other promotions appeared to be in play to help create that immediate impact.
On the other hand, by 7:30 p.m., "Despicable Me" had 364 followers from its Promoted Tweet at the bottom of Twitter's "Trending Worldwide" homepage section. It was unclear if the ad was a CPC, CPM, or some other style of buy. (In addition to the homepage placement, Promoted Tweets can be placed at the top of Twitter's search results.)
The case of LeBron James versus "Despicable Me" seems to suggest that Twitter performs better as a pure buzz marketing vehicle than it does as an audience-driving ad platform.
To be fair, the basketball player's pending decision on where he'll play in the future has recently been a white-hot topic for offline and online media outlets. James is an unrestricted free agent who is expected to announce which NBA team he will sign with as early as this week. While the player's publicist has stated that the 25-year-old player will not unveil his new team via Twitter, fans are swarming to his account to find out the latest news. James already had around 90,000 followers before authoring his first tweet at 4 p.m:
In the upper right-hand corner of James' Twitter page appears the address for his soon-to-be-launched Web site. Visitors are encouraged to give their name, e-mail address, and cell number. After submitting the form, they see a message saying, "You'll be the first to know."
Interestingly, the NBA on Monday purchased the same Promoted Tweet homepage placement that Universal Pictures ran for "Despicable Me." It utilized the simple copy, "LeBron James." As reported by TechCrunch, if viewers clicked through, they'd see a tweet casting a net of wider basketball-related interest: "For all your LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and other NBA Free Agency updates check out Decision 2010 on NBA.com."
The NBA has nearly 2 million Twitter followers - after reaching the 1 million mark a year ago. The New York-based league didn't respond to a request for its Twitter follower count before Monday's ad.
If the NBA saw a 24-hour increase anything remotely close to James' surge yesterday, it likely got its money's worth. And it appears that the marketers of "Despicable Me" may not have been as fortunate.
Follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
March 19, 2014