Linsanity bound to be the next big sports marketing sensation in Asia

Linsanity bound to be the next big sports marketing sensation in Asia

SHANGHAI - Reuters
Linsanity bound to be the next big sports marketing sensation in Asia

New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin (C) is quickly becoming a sensation in Asia, whose fondness for basketball was well-documented during Yao Ming’s heyday. REUTERS photo

As the first ripples of “Linsanity” hit Asia, ethnic Chinese-American Jeremy Lin’s fairytale rise has marketing men rubbing their hands with glee as they project a potential candidate to fill the very large shoes left by last year’s retirement of Yao Ming.

A clean-cut Harvard graduate rejected by a string of NBA teams, New York Knicks guard Lin has emerged suddenly over the last couple of weeks to inspire a franchise which has underperformed for years in one of the world’s biggest sports markets.

That storyline alone would make the 23-year-old Californian an attractive proposition to advertisers, but add in the fact he was born to Taiwanese parents and you would, it seems, have marketing gold on your hands.

“There’s no question brands will be interested in Jeremy Lin,” Jeremy Walker, head of sports marketing and branded entertainment for GolinHarris, told Reuters. “You only have to look at what Yao Ming has done not just for the NBA but for brands that he represents both in the US and in China. Every top Chinese star that comes out from the Olympic Games or wherever it might be, there’s always going to be an awful lot of interest for brands because all the major brands in the world are still looking to China for growth.”

China has long been the NBA’s biggest market outside North America and the league is the country’s most popular sporting import.

Yao topped the Forbes China celebrity list for six years from its inception in 2004. Much of his income came from lucrative deals to promote the likes of Pepsi, Visa, Apple, McDonalds and Reebok.

Lin, who has described Yao as a “big brother” figure, has a long way to go to match that kind of NBA success and those kind of earnings. To do so, he will have to compete with stars both on and off the court.