The End of the Lebron Era: Why Magic Johnson and the LA Lakers need Lavar Ball (and Big Baller Brand) Part III
III. Going Digital with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Lonzo Ball — The Emergence of Social, Technology & Analytics in Professional Basketball
This is a the third part of a series around Lavar Ball, Big Baller Brand, and the changing landscape of professional basketball.
The second part describes the how small market superstars used social media and audience development in order to land better circumstances for their careers.
Terence Latimer is a digital marketer and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. He’s the founder of 360° platform Food Tribe, a startup that works with restaurants and food brands to develop better relationships with foodies.
Terence has 10+ years working with startups on everything from sales development, digital marketing campaigns, to launching new products.
Follow Terence @kingterentius
The Ball family — and Lonzo in particular, is going to be important to the Lakers in 2018 and beyond — both on the court and off. On the court, Lonzo had an above average season in a crowded rookie class.
Guys like Donovon Mitchell, Jason Taytum and — ahem, Ben Simmons, showed just how talented this years rookies were.
Over 52 games, Lonzo averaged 10.2 points per game, 1.7 steals, 7.2 assists, and about 7 rebounds (1.3 offensive rebounds + 5.6 defensive rebounds).
While he’s got some room for improvement (his shooting percentage is atrocious and his shot needs some work) ultimately, any real basketball fan knows his upside is huge.
The kid’s basketball IQ is off the charts — the way he sees the court is his greatest asset. Lonzo has the ability to interpret defenses and find his teammates for open looks.
Open looks, like leaving UCLA after a 1-year championship run.
Lonzo and his father Lavar have taken a less than traditional approach in his path to the league.
While most players entering the draft sign lucrative endorsement deals negotiated by high-profile agents, Lonzo and his team turned down traditional offers with Nike, Under Armour and Adidas.
Instead, Big Baller Brand, a family company, had to be a part of any deal Lonzo signed.
A visionary and dreamer, Lavar dreamed of a day where his son’s would play professional basketball with one another on the Los Angeles Lakers.
More than that, he longed for a day where the players — the talent of basketball — came first.
Which is why he and Big Baller Brand launched the JBA, or, the Junior Basketball Association.
A league Lavar says, gives “…guys a chance to get a jump start on their career, to be seen by pro scouts, and we’re going to pay them because someone has to pay these kids.”
Reason #1 why Lavar Ball is a marketing genius: he understands media.
Learn how Hubspot can help you manage your sales + media strategy.
Generating attention in today’s media heavy landscape is a challenge, we’ve already seen what small market teams had to do in order to get the word out.
Sure, he says some things that are outrageous — which, if you’re short sighted, might sound crazy or silly.
In reality though, he’s brilliant.
What’s a better story than an LA native with a trio of hooping sons that hope to hit it big one day with the Lakers?
This is the stuff marketers dream about: a story to talk about.
And beyond that, the NBA has proven the importance of having a brand audiences can resonate with in today’s social heavy environment.
Today’s virtual fan advocates on behalf of, or to the detriment of, today’s players.
Broke somebody’s ankles? There’s a meme for that.
Trolled by a fan. Twitter’s got something to say.
Today’s player has something that no player has had before: the ability to have a direct conversation with their fans.
Which is part of the fun! When players do fun stuff like ticket giveaways and ask-me-anythings, it gives you a peek into their mentality outside of sports.
We follow our favorite players because we identify with them in some way.
Players have shown that they don’t need large markets like Los Angeles in order to have great careers: Kevin Durant traded his marquee status with the Oklahoma City Thunder to win two championship rings with the Golden State Warriors.
Cupcake put the icing on the cake: this is a players league.
The last few free agency summers have been great examples of players owning their careers like Lebron has:
- Kevin Durant leaving OKC to join Golden State
- Kyrie Irving forcing a trade to the Boston Celtics
- Paul George traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder
- Steph Curry signing the largest contract in NBA history
Outside of the obvious — these players are all really good. What’s also important to remember is that these marquee players (outside of Kyrie Irving) didn’t land in places that weren’t traditionally seen as desirable.
Small market teams are attracting players like never before.
Why you might ask?
30 years ago, playing for a small market team wasn’t on anyone’s dream list: smaller market stypically weren’t able to attract the type of players that could help win championships.
Today’s technology heavy world means that small market teams aren’t the social pariahs of days past.
Technology has meant state of the art work out centers, the world’s best trainers, and the ability to generate an income outside of basketball.
Cheap travel, affordable living and social media — ensured that the world got a little smaller for every NBA player.
Social media meant players could highlight their personalities, build their reputations, and most importantly — engage with fans.
“Hey Kevin Durant, is it true you demanded a trade on your birthday?”
“I did demand a trade, but no, it wasn’t on my birthday.”
Conversations like this take place everyday online, between NBA fans and NBA superstars.
Without the fans, the NBA wouldn’t be what it is.
This next generation of NBA fans are going to be looking for more and more engaging ways in to interact with the players, which is why its important for NBA teams to attract the types of players who are able to help from a branding and customer engagement perspective.
Think of NBA players as customer service reps — answering questions and giving interviews to your customers in order to learn more about them.
The Ball Family (and not the the one’s on the court) hijacked the system — they noticed an opportunity, and leapt into action.
Part four in this six part series coming soon.
Be sure to follow me on Medium for the next post in this series.
If you’re interested in more articles like this, feel free to follow my blog, where I teach startup founders who to go from #sidehustle to Startup.
Check out my post on 5 Easy Steps to Develop Your Startup’s Sales Strategy in order to learn how to develop a sales strategy designed to help you win new clients.
If you’re interested in learning how to grow your startup, feel free to request a meeting.