Linsanity becomes an overnight Beloved Brand

Jeremy Lin has become an overnight sensation.  Here’s a guy who didn’t get any scholarships, went undrafted and has been cut by two NBA teams already.  His rookie NBA season, he averaged 2.6 points per game and barely got any playing time.  Just two months ago, he was cut by Golden State, one of the worst teams in the league.    He went to Harvard of all places and even in the Ivy League, he only averaged 12 points a game.    This guy has literally come from out of no where.   Even he knows that.  He was sleeping on his brothers couch just a month ago.  On top of all this, Jeremy Lin is the first American born Chinese player to break through in the NBA, which strengthens his fan based around the world.  In just seventeen days, he’s gone from a nobody to an instant global sensation, who might one day command a brand value of over $100 Million.

As I’ve laid out the Brand Love Curve, people ask me “Can a brand go straight to LOVE IT?”   My answer is “NO”, but some brands can go along the curve at warped-speed.   A few examples: the first time I had a White Chocolate Magnum Bar in the 1990s, I made it all the way to the Love It stage on the second bite.  When Kevin Spacey as “Keyser Söze” started limping away at the end of The Usual Suspects, I instantly knew it would be my one of my brands for life.  Lin has gone to Beloved Status that fast.

Jeremy Lin’s first big game was only 17 nights ago and yet he’s all over the news.   Eighteen days ago, no one really knew him.   In fact his own facebook status in early January was “Everytime i try to get into Madison Square Garden, the security guards ask me if im a trainer LOL”.   His story has grown in legendary fashion, winning 7 games in a row, hitting last second shots, beating Kobe Bryant.   All this is the basketball side.

As a brand, Jeremy Lin has gone along the Brand Love Curve at warp-speed, potentially even faster than Justin Bieber.   But for Lin, it’s been the Perfect Storm of Events.

  1. He’s just an Average Joe: He went undrafted, cut by two teams, no job, sleeping on his brothers couch. Great Story. It all adds up–he’s one of us.  We love those stories, where the guy just shows up to try out and makes the team.  Before the Lakers game, Kobe was laughing about the prospect of guarding him.   After he scored 38 points, Kobe was marvelling at his ability.  They make movies wtih scripts like that.
  2. He’s another Tebow:  He thanks Jesus when he win.   He’s nice and humble.  He’s also a highly flawed player who like Tebow, wins in the end.  And like Tebow, he wins in dramatic fashion.  We just rode the Tebow Story–and we’re clearly not done with it.   Most of us want more Tebow.   We want heroes and we want them to be good guys. 
  3. New York is the Centre of the Universe:  If this was Oklahoma or Portland, it might not be so crazy, but it’s New York, the home to the most powerful media and advertising in the world.   He’s already made the cover of Time Magazine and now back-to-back covers on Sports Illustrated.  Ratings for Knick games are through the roof–the highest since Michael Jordan.  His #17 jersey is selling like crazy.  Social Media has gone crazy behind Lin.  Did the New York Media help add fuel to the fire?  Likely.
  4. It’s a Global Story:  Lin, while born in America is the first American born Chinese player in the NBA.   His games are being watched Live in China.   And he’s an instant national hero in a country of One Billion people.  And as we know, the economy in China is strong–giving them the real purchasing power to get behind Lin.

As with any Beloved Brand, the more loved the brand the more valuable that brand will be.    A month ago Lin was making league minimum.  Now, he could be worth somewhere between $15 Million and $150 Million, depending on how long this status can last for him.   A few numbers that help tell the story.

  • Since Feb. 4th MSG’s stock price has increased 6%, adding $139 million to the company’s market value. During the same period the S&P 500 has gone up less than 1%.  With increased TV ratings, higher ticket prices and the #1 selling jersey, with continued success, the Knicks have to re-sign him.  That means, Lin’s next contract could see a salary of $10 Million per year.
  • Yoa Ming, the only other notable Chinese player in the NBA, made up $80 million in endorsement deals in China.  China has gotten behind Lin in a dramatic fashion.  With a soaring economy and One Billion consumers, that could be a huge payday for Lin.   Especially for American brands wanting to break through in China.   With all this hype and Chinese pride, Lin could generate $80-100 Million in China.
  • There are already rumours going on that he has signed on with Nike, that he will be the new face of NBA’13 and his agent is quoted as saying that he has already turned down Millions.  Even in America, Lin could easily turn this into another $25 Million in US Endorsements.  

If things go right, and assuming Lin continues to play reasonably well, add it all up and Jeremy Lin could easily turn his Beloved Brand Status into $100-150 Million per year.

About Graham Robertson:  I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do.   My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  I’ve done executive training of marketing executives and managers as well as taught marketing at Major Universities including York University, Queen’s University and Cornell University.  If you have interest for your team, email me and we can customize a program to your needs.  For Powerpoint versions of Beloved Brands as well as other team learning presentations, visit Beloved Brands Learning Sessions