Linsanity is sweeping the nation, but is the Jeremy Lin phenomenon -- albeit producing the highest point total for a player in his first four career starts since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77 -- enough to build a marketing platform?
Maybe a local one right now, but it might take a bit longer for him to become a national player.
“It would not be prudent for a big company to all of the sudden center him in a big national campaign unless someone wanted to do a quick one-off spot and capitalize on him right now,” said Doug Shabelman, president of Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing.
“What’s going to help him and the team in a considerable way is how long he can sustain a moderate to healthy pace, and can he get his team to win? If he continues to score 20 to 30 points but they lose, the buzz will start to wane,” said Shabelman.
Not surprisingly, Lin’s best opportunities might come from the Asian-American market. Lin is only the fourth player of Asian-American descent in the NBA, yet Asians comprise approximately 4.5 percent of the U.S. population, according to the last census. Fourteen percent of the country's Asian population resides in the New York metropolitan area, making Lin’s emergence with the Knicks serendipitous.
“Lin is truly the first American-born Chinese star athlete,” said Timothy Ng, general manager of Admerasia, an advertising agency focusing on marketing to Asian-Americans. “Whereas Yao Ming was born and imported from China, Lin is a second-generation Asian-American. This makes Lin marketable to both new Asian immigrants and resident Asian-Americans.”
Opportunities in that market are also now open for the Knicks.
“The Knicks are definitely lucky they were sitting on this hidden gem,” Ng said.
So, too, is the NBA.
Lin’s jersey has been the league’s top seller since Feb. 4, and the Knicks were the top-selling team last week, with five of the top 10 items sold by the league being Knicks jerseys. And this week, NBAStore.com will begin selling Lin youth jerseys, additional T-shirt styles, and a woman’s tee. The NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in New York is already selling replica and authentic jerseys and will add name and number tees and additional styles.
The NBA’s Asian TV partners have added extra Knicks games to their broadcast schedule this month. Highlights showing Lin make up four of the top 10 videos on the NBA section of Sina.com, a media website that serves Chinese communities worldwide.
One place some folks can’t see Lin? The greater New York area, where a bitter cable dispute between Time Warner Cable and Madison Square Garden network have kept about 1.5 million viewers from seeing Knicks games. ESPN.com’s Ian Begley writes that some people have speculated Lin’s recent run (the Knicks are 5-0 since he started to get major minutes) will force the sides to reach a deal.