You’re not Jeremy Lin, you say? Ok let me back up a step. By now you’re probably aware of the spectacular rise of Harvard grad and NY Knicks’ new point guard, Jeremy Lin. Before he was passed from team to team in the NBA, he was passed over by Division I colleges for athletic scholarships. Then, when he got his opportunity with the Knicks, he made some recruiters feel pretty sorry. Essentially, Lin’s story is the American dream come true. That’s why you are Jeremy Lin. You, as a consumer, empathize.
Lin’s success tugs on the heartstrings of many demographic groups. There’s the highly educated contingent because of his Harvard education, Asian-American fans and players who don’t have an idol to look up to in the NBA, regular Americans who love a good underdog stickin-it-to-the-man story and Knicks fans who just wanted some wins (and just happen to live in a giant metropolis). And those Knicks fans have seen the Knicks brand limp along through some …er… let’s say “character concerns.” From former Head Coach Isiah Thomas’s legal issues and .456 win percentage to secret pre-draft workouts and Carmelo Anthony’s failure to deliver thus far, the Knicks brand lacked excitement and hope.
When you think about it, it’s an ideal scenario for the Knicks, the NBA and anyone whose income is dependent upon ups and downs of NBA viewership and game attendance. Is there a lesson here, though? Or, did the Knicks get really lucky by choosing a guy they probably thought was talented over another guy they probably thought was less talented?
I think there is a lesson: Brands and businesses can be made or broken by the degree to which consumers can empathize with what they buy. Whether or not that happens as a result of strategic decisions or blind luck can probably be influenced by those businesses or brands making those strategic decisions. Other NBA teams, take note: I have been practicing my free throws and can make almost 50% of them. You sure you don’t want to take a second look?