Since returning to Cleveland, LeBron James has shifted some of the landscape of the NBA. While the move to the Cavaliers created another contender in the Eastern Conference, the move hasn't only made an impact on the court. As expected, James and the Cavaliers have become one of the biggest merchandise movers in the league.
Last season, the sales of Cavaliers merchandise was fairly insignificant relative to the league as a whole, but this year the Cavs have been a big driver of sales across all NBA markets. According to marketing data from Lids, Cleveland sales have increased more than 2000 percent from last year and now makes up for eight percent of total NBA sales. It's a similar trend to how the price of Cavaliers tickets has skyrocketed on the secondary market this season. While even the most extreme ticket prices won't jump anywhere near 1000 percent, the season average for Cavs tickets on the secondary market this season is 437 percent above the average price from last year at Quicken Loans Arena. According to TiqIQ, the $366 average price is the most expensive in the NBA this season, 34.5 percent above the price of Knicks tickets, which are the second most expensive in the league.
James' former team, the Miami Heat, still make up for 9.4 percent of NBA merchandise sales, but that's down significantly from from the 20 percent share Miami had last season. Heat tickets have also remained expensive, but have definitely been affected by the move on the secondary market. The average price for Heat tickets is currently $195, 17 percent below last year's season average. The $195 average is still the seventh most expensive in the NBA this season.
Jerseys bearing James' name alone have been the biggest factor in the difference between Cleveland and Miami. James Cavaliers jerseys have sold 54.7 percent more units this year than his Heat jerseys did last year. Much of that can be attributed to the excitement of his return to Cleveland and last year already being his fourth in Miami, which would understandably keep the total numbers of Heat jerseys sold down.
When it comes to merchandise sales, Miami still has some advantages over Cleveland. Market size is a pretty significant factor as the Florida market, even when shared with Orlando, is much larger than that in Cleveland. However, some factors have little to do with fandom at all. From a fashion aspect, the team colors for Miami are much more universal than Cleveland's, especially for headwear. Miami's black and red colors are much easier to pair with normal outfits than Cleveland's wine and gold, something that has played a role in sales thus far.
One other thing that could impact future sales numbers is the amount of Cavaliers product currently available. Not until recently have James jerseys been in regular circulation and the same goes for Kevin Love. Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade jerseys have been available since his rookie year in 2004 and Chris Bosh is now in his fifth season with the team. Though more Cleveland products will help improve sales numbers, this could be one place James and the Cavaliers can't top the Heat.
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