This past Saturday night, a kid from Harvard named Jeremy Lin came off the bench and propelled the New York Knicks to a thrilling 99-92 victory over the Nets at Madison Square Garden. Two nights later, Lin made his first start in the National Basketball Association lighting up the court with 28 points and 8 assists in a win over the Utah Jazz. Wednesday night, Lin continued his monster week with an incredible performance against the Washington Wizards leading the Knicks with 23 points and 10 assists.
Lin is the NBA's first American-born player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent and only the fourth Asian-American in league history. Lin's parents, Shirley and Gie-Ming, who are engineers, emigrated from Taiwan to the United States in the 1970s. Lin's Asian roots are rare, and that is significant, considering that the NBA has been pushing its entry into both the Chinese and Taiwanese markets for years. A United States-born star with Asian ties could be a tremendous fit for NBA International and its corporate partners in Taiwan, Japan and China.
Lin's play for the Knicks so far has been nothing short of remarkable. In fact, it might be time to safely say that Jeremy Lin mania is out in full force on the streets of Manhattan. What Lin is about to realize, if he hasn't already, is that his success is much bigger the just his play on the court. From a marketing and endorsement standpoint Lin has a tremendous amount of potential.
Peter Robert Casey, Director of Digital Marketing at Five-Star Basketball, was quick to point out that Lin's story resonates with fans. "A look at his Twitter account and level of engagement of his Facebook posts shows fans love him," said Casey. Lin's popularity in the social media space has been quite remarkable. On January 9th, Lin had fewer than 30,000 twitter followers. In a few short weeks Lin has seen that number grow to over 66,000. How this incredible growth translates is yet to be seen, but Lin's comfort in the social media space will make many potential corporate sponsors light up.
The New York Knicks and their marketing department could not be more elated right about now. The team is surging with Lin at the point guard position, salvaging what was becoming an increasingly dire situation. Even more impressive than Lin's play on the court has been his ability to move the needle on ticket sales. According to SeatGeek.com Director of Communications, Will Flaherty, transaction volume on the secondary market for Friday's Knicks-Lakers game shot up to four times higher than the average volume over the previous three days immediately following Lin's big game this past Monday night. Regarding secondary market volume for Friday's Knicks-Lakers game, Flaherty noted, "we've certainly seen some spikes that are atypical with what we normally see in terms of volume in the run up to a big-regular season NBA game." Within the last 24 hours, the average price for a Lakers-Knicks ticket has been $282, a high mark, even for Madison Square Garden.
Consider also that roughly 14 percent of the Asian Population in the United States resides in the New York metropolitan area and the state of New York is home to the second largest community of Asian Americans behind only California. If Lin's play continues, let's just say fans could be looking forward to some well thought out "Asian-American" nights at The World's Most Famous Arena for years to come.
As Vicki Wong, President & CEO of DAE Advertising, a leading Asian American agency whose clients include Southwest and Well Fargo noted, "the Asian American community in the United States possesses certain values which are: Religion, Education, and being a solid citizen, not only does Jeremy possess all of those but he appears to come from the "Asian Dream" — Harvard educated, a rare combination of brains and brawn. He's a wonderful role model for Asian Americans, especially among the young."
Lin's agent, Roger Montgomery, of Montgomery Sports Group was quick to state that the Knicks point guard is "Definitely looking to align with an Asian American brand or sponsor that represents the same kind of things [he] represents: relentlessness, hard work, tenacity, and the underdog mentality." A nugget for Lin and his potential sponsors to look at: The Asian American community is a large, affluent, educated market more effectively reached in their own language. Seventy-seven percent of Asian American's speak a language other than English in the home, compared to 22 percent of the rest of the United States' population. Furthermore, the average Asian American household earns around 18,000 dollars more in income per year, and spends around 7,000 more dollars than the average American household.
Currently, Lin's only top level endorsement deal is a shoe contract with Nike. This is great news for Montgomery, considering that his phone is ringing off the hook with potential endorsement and marketing opportunities for his client. Montgomery does not have to worry about any type of previous exclusivity sponsor provisions that another athlete in Lin's position might be faced with. One company that is sure to be keeping a close watch on Lin and any potential future endorsements: Li-Ning. The major Chinese athletic company which makes athletic shoes and sporting goods has been proactive in making an imprint in the United States.
One can bet that if Lin keeps this level of play up, he will be heavily featured on Knicks marketing collateral and a welcomed guest on the New York talk show circuit once the season ends. Watching interviews during Lin's short time with the Knicks it is apparent that he is extremely well spoken. Any corporate sponsor will be enthralled with Lin's ability to present its brand to consumers in a fantastic light, and do it in a genuine, meaningful way.
Don't be surprised if Lin lands a significant endorsement deal soon. Although, you can bet that Montgomery and Lin will be very careful in crafting a marketing portfolio that aligns well with Lin's values and educational background. A Fortune 500 company that has significant ties, or is looking to establish ties, in the Asian American market would be an ideal fit. Categories that could be first on Lin's list: Financial, Food, Auto and Education.
A corporate sponsor that aligns with Lin now could see tremendous return on investment, especially when one considers that buying power of the Asian American community is expected to reach $775 billion by 2015, and the Asian American market already out shines the economies of all but 21 countries.
Thirty-five days ago Lin jokingly tweeted "Every time I try to get into Madison Square Garden, the security guards ask me if I'm a trainer." That surely won't be happening anymore.