Dubbed the “The King” and self proclaimed royalty of the NBA, Cav’s superstar LeBron James had the chance to meet actual royalty on Tuesday, December 9th, when Prince William and his wife Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton attended the Barclays Center for a matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets.
While the game ended with a fantastic buzzer beating contested three by James that even left Hova in shock, the drama continued into the post-game as well. While posing for pictures, a sweat-soaked King James broke royalty protocol by putting his arm around the Duchess. Afterwards, James posted this photo to Instagram:
LeBron James: Wow what an Honor! This game has brought me a lot and I’ll never take it for granted! The King, The Prince, & Queen Kate! #Royalty #StriveForGreatness #RWTW
The photo was promptly deleted after realizing that Kate isn’t a Queen, but not before getting 56,837 Likes and 893 Comments. The picture was re-posted as:
LeBron James: Wow what an Honor! This game has brought me so much and I’ll never take it for granted! The King, “Duke & Duchess. #Royalty #StriveForGreatness #RWTW #LRMR #Klutch Still referring to himself as the “King” and adding a few more hashtags… and in less that 24 hours the photo had 247,244 Likes and 2,386 Comments. Of course, in light of the event, hundred of thousands people took to social media to give their opinions on the breach (or lack there of) of supposed etiquette. Being that James hosts one of the most lucrative brands, was there any impact to LeBron’s branding for the faux pas? And who are the people that actually care and are engaging in the conversation? Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight™ platform allows us to leverage social media data to look at the conversation to gauge what the themes, sentiment and personas are of the 9th’s events. Thousands of posts poured in over the span of a few hours with topics all relating to the royal family: all with varying degrees of themes, and one of the primary being the “arm around Kate”: Taking a deeper dive into the conversation spike on the 9th, we see there’s a somewhat proportional net sentiment: It’s clear that the “touching of royalty” was the primary driver of that spike in volume. Much of the conversation was neutral, people just pointing out and sharing what had happened without necessarily giving a skew on the occurrence either way. Positive posts were people being supporters of LeBron being an ambassador for American culture to the Brits and being proud of his relationship with the Duke and Duchess. The negative comments were to be as expected though; many people calling him clueless and ignorant. Despite not having ill intent, many thought it was a classless move from an international superstar who thought he should know better. Overall, based on sheer proportion of net sentiment, positivity nearly doubled negativity at 17%(+) compared to 9%(-) Knowing that the touching of a Duchess did not necessarily put LeBron’s legacy or international branding at risk, it’s interesting to know what the persona of a social media user is who engaged in the conversation. Benchmarking my analysis of LeBron, I looked at the approximately 3.5 million posts as of Oct. 28th (the start of the NBA season) to the current date (Dec. 10th), and used ForSight to classify all identifiable posts for location, gender, age and ethnicity. I found that over the ~2 month sample size, users tend to be white males age 18-35 from Ohio. Maybe surprising, but probably not. But what is more interesting is the shift on Dec. 9th. Female engagement increases from 19% to 27% and there is a clear shift in the age demographic as well: We see people age 35 and over engaging in the controversy at a much higher frequency. It’s possible that this international incident transcends the sport and LeBron’s typical target demographic, but understanding not just what’s being said, but the who’s saying what allows us to draw smarter conclusions about such an incident. It’s probably safe to say that LeBron James mindlessly touching the Duchess of Cambridge while posing for a picture will not put any foreign relations or policy at risk. For more social insights into Lebron and the NBA, check out our case study on Lebron’s return to the Cavaliers.