LeBron James effect boosts Lakers ticket and merchandise sales

LeBron James is already scoring big for the Los Angeles Lakers – and the season hasn’t even started.

With the regular season kicking off on October 16, the new star of the legendary franchise is jacking up ticket prices not just at home, but in nearly every city he plays in. At Staples Center alone, ticket prices are up 427% from last season, according to StubHub. However, it’s not just at home: road games for the Lakers are once again a big draw.

“When the Lakers enter different markets, we see a massive explosion,” said Scott Jablonski, general manager of StubHub for the NHL, NFL and NBA. “It’s one of the most important things we’ve seen.”

The most requested NBA game for the upcoming season is opening night, when the Houston Rockets visit the Lakers: the average ticket for this game is $ 934.

The second most expensive game is on Christmas Day, when the Lakers travel to Oakland to take on defending champion Golden State Warriors. Tickets there average just over $ 700, a 120% increase from last Christmas. (And in case you were wondering, Cleveland has gone unnoticed. Ticket sales for the Cavaliers have been declining since the King headed west.)

Meanwhile, it’s not just ticket sales that are getting an inspired boost from Lebron, as James’ Lakers merchandise is skyrocketing as well. In the Lakers’ first two preseason games at Staples Center, the team said they sold double the merchandise compared to last season.

On eBay, 12,000 James’ jerseys have been sold since signing in July. To put that into perspective, that’s almost 200 jerseys sold per day – on this site alone. His signature shoe, the Nike LeBron 15, tops sneaker sales on eBay, followed by Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook.

“LeBron’s move to Los Angeles has sparked an overwhelming boost in jersey and sneaker sales on eBay, and demonstrates just how influential he really is in moving the needle on fan clothing,” said Sam Bright, vice president of eBay Soft Goods, North America.

Basketball star LeBron James wears Beats By Dre headphones

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“Power torque”

In the primary ticket market, the Lakers say the “LeBron effect” will be felt stronger a year from now, as season tickets and sponsorships were mostly obtained before his decision to go to Los Angeles. For now, the impact is mainly on the secondary market.

“LeBron, one of the best individual brands in the world, joining one of the best team brands in the world, has generated incredible interest,” said Tim Harris, Lakers chief operating officer. “The marriage of these two brands has created a powerful couple.”

Harris said the Lakers are trying to slow down for the sake of their fans. As they expect season ticket prices to increase next season, the team plans to use this season’s secondary market to help determine the true value of Lakers tickets.

Another area where they expect big bumps is a rise in TV ratings. Already, James’ debut preseason game against the Nuggets has drawn 1.17 million viewers on ESPN – the third-largest audience for a preseason game since 2009.

Harris expected this trend to continue into the regular season. He said LA Live, the entertainment district next to Staples Center, is also seeing an increase in restaurant traffic. It should only get bigger once the real games start.

Harris said the demand for tickets for the Lakers is so great that they could sell the Staples Center – even if the venue was hypothetically capable of accommodating an additional 10,000 fans. Harris has been with the Lakers for 20 seasons, including through five championships with now-retired stars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Yet 2018 is a whole new level with LeBron.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it continues to take my breath away, the craziness with him in that uniform,” Harris told CNBC.