His 3-point shot that beat the Toronto Raptors at the buzzer is just the latest event to boost the cachet of Jeremy Lin. He has come from virtually nowhere to captivate New York, the NBA, the sports-world, and the entire country. David Letterman even used his name on Wednesday’s Late Night show for his top 10 list – the top 10 worst Jeremy Lin puns.Since he exploded off the bench on February 4th with what some call a breakout performance with 25 points, 7 assists, and no turnovers, the previously disappointing New York Knicks have been on a winning streak. More interestingly, after just a few games as a starter, he has turned into a brand marketer’s dream.
He is unique and has had much early success
One of the first things that brand marketers look for is uniqueness, and Jeremy Lin is definitely unique. Of the very few players of Asian decent to play in the NBA, he is the only one that was born in the USA. He went to Harvard, which is not the school that most think of for NBA basketball prospects. He was not offered a scholarship out of high school, undrafted out of college, dropped by the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, and almost dropped by the New York Knicks. What saved him is that the Knicks were forced to use him because of injuries. In his first five games as a starter, he averaged 27.2 points per game and scored 136 points. That’s more points than such other NBA stars as Charlie Scott, Dan Issel and Shaquille O’Neal scored in their first 5 games as starters. Jeremy Lin is also one of only 15 starters in the NBA since 1985 that scored at least 20 points, had 7 assists, and one steal for six games in a row.
Most of all, he is an exciting player. When he comes off the bench, the crowd roars with approval and enthusiasm. The fans are excited and cannot get enough of him, and most important of all for Knicks fans, his team has won 7 games in a row. As a result of all this early success, he has just been added to the All-star game roster.
The elements of a powerful brand
In addition to being unique, Jeremy Lin provides fans with branding elements that are easy to use and remember. Fans, sportscasters, and journalists have created a new Lin-branded lexicon. Some examples include Lintastic, Lincredible, Linteresting, Linsider, and Linsanity. Some of these have even evolved into branding slogans. For the Trekkies, there is “Lin Long and Prosper.” Others include:
- Lin It To Win It!
- The Lin Crowd
- Very Linteresting
- Lin Man (he is slightly built for the NBA)
- Lin On Me
These phrases entertain, amuse, and help Jeremy Lin to stand out from the crowd and be remembered. The NBA has not seen this kind of branded language since Shaquille O’Neal brought us the Shaq-attack. Jeremy Lin’s Cinderella story, which NPR and others refer to as Linderalla, is one that fans love. An unassuming, slightly-built, Asian-American basketball player that nobody wanted takes the NBA and the sports world by storm. This story also has legs beyond America’s borders. Networks in Taiwan (Elta and ESPN), China (Sinha), and the Philippines (ESPN) have added his games to their schedules. If Jeremy continues to play the way he has, it is likely that networks all over the world will be tuning into New York Knicks games providing numerous opportunities for the Knicks to monetise their newly-extended global reach.
Payoff of Linsanity
The proof the brand is working is that everything associated with Jeremy Lin is bringing in more money and making Madison Square Garden a fun place for the first time since the mid 1990’s. Tickets to Knicks games are selling fast. The game with the Toronto raptors on Tuesday night was a sellout – attracting 20,092 fans. To put that in perspective, the average raptors draw is nearly 16,800 fans. Souvenir sellers at Madison Square Garden (MSG) and visiting venues are selling more merchandise. As Linsanity has grown, secondary ticket prices have been skyrocketing, and Mr. Lin’s jersey is the top-selling t-shirt on NBA.com – the league’s online store, and the MSG Network has seen its ratings increase by 70%. According to Forbes, Jeremy Lin has the fastest growing athlete brand in the world with a value estimated at $14 million. During the past week alone, he accounted for .32% of all online conversations – more than the entire Knicks team and superstars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James combined.
The financial markets have taken notice. MSG’s stock price has gone up more than 9%. In fact, a post on Forbes.com by Patrick Rishe has gone so far as to call Jeremy Lin “A One-Man, Global Economic Stimulus Package.” There is not much to say after that except stay tuned.
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