When you happen to be a young basketball phenom, the media focus is never far away. That goes double when your father is LeBron James, aka the greatest NBA player in the world. Because of his father’s fame, LeBron James Jr., or “Bronny,” commanded a lot of attention even before he entered high school.
That attention culminated last summer in a high-profile sponsorship of Bronny’s AAU team, the Blue Chips. Let’s break down the sponsorship deal.
Bronny James’ career so far
It may seem odd to profile the career of a player who only entered high school a few months ago. Yet Bronny has been subject to on-court scrutiny since he was old enough to play. Highlight reels of Bronny’s AAU performances began appearing when he was just nine years old.
At that time, Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari was already scouting Bronny, according to SB Nation. That year, Bronny led his AAU team to a fourth-grade championship. His AAU career continued to blossom from there. In 2018, Bronny’s Gulf Coast Blue Chips AAU team went undefeated, claiming the under-13 championship.
The Blue Chips’ sponsorship deal
Last May, Bronny’s Blue Chips AAU team accepted a sponsorship deal with the high-end sneaker store Flight Club. On the surface, there’s nothing unusual about an AAU team taking on a sponsorship deal. Many AAU teams have deals with sneaker companies, who provide players with footwear.
The Flight Club deal differed in terms of its scope. It gave the company the right to not only place their logo on the front and back of team jerseys but also to design both home and away jerseys. Plus, Flight Club provided each player with sneakers, hoodies, duffel bags, and other branded swag.
At the time of the sponsorship, many analysts questioned whether the deal was truly legal within AAU rules. Although unique, the sponsorship did meet all compliance guidelines. The key factor was that all of the apparel provided by Flight Club was intended solely for in-game and travel use.
Bronny’s role in the deal
A sponsorship deal of this size didn’t go down without some involvement from LeBron. As reported by ESPN, LeBron apparently acted as a sort of stylist for the team. His job? Hand-picking shoes for each of the players. Those shoes came from Flight Club’s extensive inventory of rare models.
Because of Blue Chips’ preexisting deal with the company, presumably all of the shoes LeBron chose were Nikes. It also seems safe to assume that many, if not all of them, were from LeBron’s own Nike line.
In addition to Flight Club and Nike, the Blue Chips had a sponsorship deal with the video production company Mars Reel. This deal gave Mars Reel the right to display their logo below the player numbers on the backs of jerseys. In return, Mars Reel spent the season capturing footage of the Blue Chips.
While the sponsorship deals were ostensibly meant to reward the team as a whole, it’s clear Bronny was the real focus. In fact, most commentators agree Flight Club likely would never have gotten involved were it not for Bronny’s presence. This focus can be clearly seen in the seven-episode documentary series Mars Reel produced — a documentary series centered on the budding star.