In case you don't follow sports or spend don't too much time on Twitter, LaVar Ball is a father of 3 very highly skilled men's basketball players. The eldest Lonzo was just drafted number 2 in this years NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, the middle child LiAngelo will be headed to UCLA next fall, and the youngest and arguably the most talented LaMelo will look to make another run at a California State High School championship. The 3 Ball boys went undefeated and won a California State title when they were all in high school together for Chino Hills High School. They all committed to attending UCLA upon graduation from High School. Their father LaVar Ball was instrumental in getting them prepared for the opportunities that are now arriving.
So why is LaVar Ball someone to pay attention to? Well, he's been in the mainstream media a lot since Lonzo went to UCLA. He has a very outspoken demeanor and some think that at times he says very outlandish things. For example, he once stated that he would beat Michael Jordan in a game of 1 on 1. If you are unfamiliar with Michael Jordan, then this article may not be for you. He also stated that his son was already better than current 2 time NBA MVP Stephen Curry. He's gone on various sports talk shows and brought his character on to promote his son and his Big Baller Brand. The way that LaVar has been promoting his brand and not just his BBB brand but his overall brand is the new age of marketing.
In today's world, brands have this misconception to think that us consumers want to consume their commercials online. We didn't even want to consume their commercials or advertising on TV, Radio, or print let alone on online. How annoyed do you get when you click on a video on a social media platform and the advertisement is longer than the clip? It makes me not want to buy from that brand even more so. If you waste my time with your online advertisement and especially if you make it longer than the video I'm trying to see, the ad worked against you. I will now know NOT to do business with you. So what big brands seem to get wrong is that their advertising only works if it's entertaining to us or provides some sort of value. The "50% off sale" or the this "weekend only" is just noise in a world where everyone is doing and saying the same thing. For example in the Super Bowl, the most successful commercials are the ones that get people talking. The ones that stand out by providing value to the consumer. Gary Vaynerchuk points this out very thoroughly, in order to provide a "right hook" aka a sale or "this weekend only" ad, you have to establish a relationship with the consumer. You have to throw "jabs" aka valuable content in order to then later gain enough trust to sell your product.
Now that I've explained briefly what today's marketing environment is like, here is why LaVar Ball gets it. He absolutely gets under people's skin, but it gets people talking about him. He says very outlandish things that deep down I don't think he even believes himself but he's providing entertainment value. LaVar Ball is like a WWE wrestler. Part of the entertainment value of the WWE is all the talking and outlandish things that are being said. All the 1 liners and zingers. "Do you smell what the Rock is cooking?" Well, LaVar does because he's cooking content. He's providing so many jabs that you have to pay attention to him and his boys.
In the history of the NBA, no other draft pick has consistently sold out NBA Summer League games. That's right Lonzo Ball is selling out Summer League games. Granted he's very good. He's very entertaining as an athlete but he's no better than the top NBA players who are just if not more entertaining. Many of these NBA players can't sell out real games. I for one am a basketball fan. I'm not a super fan that watches dozens of games. I catch highlights and I tune in for the playoffs but I don't watch a full game until the finals or occasionally when the Warriors are playing because they are entertaining to watch (separate conversation). I've tuned in twice to see Lonzo play in the Summer League. I tuned in because of the hype that was created by LaVar Ball.
While LaVar Ball is taking interviews and providing content, in the background is his Big Baller Brand. He wants to do what no one else has done before and that becomes a brand within a brand from the start. Sure Michael Jordan has the Jumpman brand under Nike but that came many years later and how many of these brands do we see from athletes? It took the greatest basketball player of all time to get his own brand, MJ is an exception to the rule. LaVar is trying to break that rule and deservingly so. He doesn't want to see what Nike did to Steph Curry. Steph never got his own shoe with Nike. Nike wouldn't even sponsor a summer camp for Steph, which was very important to him. When it came time to renew Steph's contract, Nike didn't even use new content or new PowerPoint slides for him. Now he's providing billions of dollars for his current brand Under Armour.
When LaVar Ball did hold meetings with Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour, he had some very against the norm requests. He wanted his Big Baller Brand to be sublicensed to the bigger brand much like Jumpman. He wanted all his boys when the time came to be signed to said brand. Lastly, he asked for an insane amount of money for the rights. All three big brands balked and said no thanks. It was the first time since shoe deals became the norm that the number 2 draft pick of the NBA draft did not have a shoe deal, or was it? LaVar went on to provide Lonzo with his own shoe under the BBB brand. They then hiked up the price to a level not seen before. Why? To provide more marketing content. The price of the shoe, the demands to the big shoe brands, the outlandish statements are all part of LaVars marketing plan. Now that everyone is paying attention and views him as the bad guy, he does a heartfelt interview with GQ. Lonzo comes out and does a commercial for his shoes in a softer tone. LaVar takes a backseat to the Lakers organization in handling Lonzo. Lonzo does a Footlocker commercial poking fun at his dad (watch here), which was hilariously done and cheered on by social media.
Now LaVars newest magic is having Lonzo wear various brands of shoes in summer league where he is now dominating. Lonzo wore Kobe Bryant's Nikes, James Harden's Adidas, and last but not least Steph Curry's Under Armour's. The new message is that BBB allows it's athletes to wear any brand. The real message is, hey look at us big brands, we can work together side by side and come to an agreement. Lonzo will wear his shoe AND your shoe. Also, take a look at how much publicity we have generated. Look at how marketable we are. Marketability is the real value and LaVar is displaying that perfectly.
I won't be surprised if one of these big companies jumps in and takes the golden nugget that LaVar is dangling. How could you not? LaVar Ball has already generated more marketing power than all of the current athletes on each respective brand with the exception of LeBron and Steph. If Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour come back to the negotiating table, I find it hard to believe that LaVar will have the same demands. I believe that this is exactly where LaVar wanted to take them in order to create more leverage in negotiations. He started incredibly high with the intention of trying to get to the highest middle ground possible. If he had not done what he's done, his ceiling would have been very limited. He went out and proved himself and now it's time for him to reap the benefits.
I know that some will still question his character due to the antics. If you really read into his story and what he does for his family and his community you'll see that he's actually a great guy. How many fathers spend this much time working and hanging out with their children? How many of you give back to your community? I don't mean you donate clothes or money, I mean how many of you go out and lend a hand? LaVar works with the local kids on their basketball skills. When his boy's workout, he has other young kids come and work out with them. He also spends time individually teaching them various skills. When his wife had a stroke, he didn't exploit that like many others would have and turn it into a marketing opportunity. He stayed silent and took care of his family. I'm sure some of you had no idea that this recently happened.
I don't applaud LaVar's character that he plays, but I do applaud his genius. I can see past the marketing strategy and know that he's actually a good guy, trying to market his brand in today's marketing environment. He gets it while so many big brands don't. Take note before you get left behind.