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LeBron James’ deal with the Lakers is a gift for Wish, the shopping startup whose logo will soon be next to his face in every photo

Wish’s jersey sponsorship looks a lot better than it did a year ago.

Basketball player LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers faces the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala on the court Jason Miller / Getty
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

When the startup behind the Wish shopping app announced a three-year jersey sponsorship with the Los Angeles Lakers last year for a reported $36 million to $42 million, these snickers were common: How could a startup spend that kind of money on such a luxury? And why would its board of directors sign off on it?

But after news broke this weekend that LeBron James, the greatest basketball player in the world, had signed a four-year deal to joined the Lakers, the Wish deal will likely be a lot more valuable.

With LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers last year, the team’s sponsor, Goodyear, received the most value of all NBA jersey sponsors — an estimated $21 million — in terms of earned media impressions on social media platforms, according to GumGum Sports, which tracked the appearances of sponsor logos in game footage shared by team-owned accounts alone.

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The Lakers and Wish came in fourth among NBA jersey sponsors, according to the same analysis, with an estimated $5 million in free social media impressions. Los Angeles ranked that high even though it had 12 more losses than wins and was never in contention to reach the playoffs.

Now, with James on the Lakers, it’s safe to assume that the value of Wish’s sponsorship will skyrocket to the top of the league — and perhaps even blow away the Cavs’ total from last year when you consider the combined global appeal of the Lakers with the star power of LeBron.

Again, the numbers above are only a fraction of all media impressions — they don’t account for impressions from live TV viewing or from content on social media shared by non-team accounts.

When I caught up with Wish CEO Peter Szulczewski around when the sponsorship deal was first announced — and when LeBron James was not yet signed — he called it “basically a no-brainer,” owing in part to the huge popularity of the Lakers in China, where the majority of the shopping app’s 600,000 merchants were based. It looks even better now.

The one remaining question: Do enough people know what the name Wish represents on Lakers jerseys for it to build huge brand awareness for the fast-growing e-commerce app? But maybe that is the point.

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