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In the NBA Playoffs, LeBron James Is a Network of His Own

LeBron James has been the prevailing storyline of the NBA Playoffs, and particularly, the first round — which ended on April 29.

Emotion measurement company Canvs compiled Emotional Reactions (ERs) from Twitter during round one TV broadcasts, and found “King James” to lead the entire league, with a towering 228,248 ERs (almost 15% of the NBA’s total of 1,553,848). That’s impressive enough on its own — but it gets even more so when stacked up against major television networks in the April 14-30 timeframe.

Looking further into Canvs data, James would be the ninth-largest network in terms of total ERs for all linear TV airings during that stretch. The high total places him just below ESPN2, and just above MSNBC. In a two-week period dominated by high-profile sporting events — NBA and NHL Playoffs, plus the NFL Draft — he was still far and away the highest ER-driver across all of television as well.

[NBA Viewing Rose 8% During Regular Season]

Across all programming (not just first round playoff games), the total for James jumps to a staggering 277,691 ERs (would be seventh among networks), which is 8.3% of all ERs on television. This isn’t just a playoff trend, either. Going back 90 days (January 31), LeBron has also generated the highest number of ERs on TV — doubling up even Donald Trump, who’s the next-closest driver.

ERs may not translate precisely to total viewers, but it’s one gauge of attentive eyeballs on a program. So it stands to reason that advertisers want in on LeBron — and his Cleveland Cavaliers.

TV advertising attention analytics company shows brands like Burger King (566.6 million) and Taco Bell (488.8 million) reached high ad impressions numbers during the first round, and the attention they’re paying to stars like LeBron translates to many spots as well. Budweiser (“No Sweat”), Burger King (“Bringing the Spice”) and Mountain Dew (“Fire and Ice”) were among the high-volume brands that reached similarly high attention scores* during round one.

Ads starring James himself have also proven to garner attention with audiences. Recent spots like Sprite’s “Big Taste” (93.81 attention score) and “The Big Taste Post Game Interview” (89.68), plus Uber’s “Rolling With a Champion” (95.85) have all piqued audience interest. “Big Taste” particularly has them sticking around through at least three quarters of the spot, as you’ll notice below. Over the entire run of the “Big Taste” spot, which has earned 566,320,657 impressions, 92% of viewers watched through at least three quartiles of the commercial.

Whether a spokesperson, “network” or basketball star, LeBron James is one of the biggest drivers for both emotion and attention on TV today. As the NBA Playoffs continue, it’s likely brands remain well aware of this fact — and find ways to further capitalize on the hype the superstar is able to generate.

*Attention scores measure the propensity of consumers to interrupt an ad play on TV — the higher the score, the more likely consumers aren’t interrupting.

John Cassillo is an analyst and contributor with TV[R]EV.