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China Daily Website

'Linsanity' a marketing dream in Asia

Updated: 2012-02-17 16:55
( chinadaily.com.cn/Agencies/Xinhua)

SHANGHAI - 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 contemplate a potential candidate to fill the very large shoes left by last year's retirement of Yao Ming.

'Linsanity' a marketing dream in Asia

A customer looks at a Jeremy Lin shirt in a Modell's store in New York's Times Square, Feb 16, 2012. Now, after averaging 26.8 points during the six-game winning streak, he's the hottest sports star in New York, with his jersey flying off the shelves of local stores. [Photo/Agencies]

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.

"There's no question brands will be interested in Jeremy Lin," said Jeremy Walker, head of sports marketing and branded entertainment for GolinHarris, by telephone from Hong Kong on Monday.

"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 States 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.

"A lot of brands want that positive 'halo effect' association they are going to get from being involved with a superstar."

China has long been the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s biggest market outside North America and the league is the country's most popular sporting import despite the retirement of former Houston Rockets centre Yao.

'Linsanity' a marketing dream in Asia

Customers wait in line to purchase Jeremy Lin shirts at the Modell's store in New York's Times Square, Feb 16, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

"Big brother"

Lin's exploits have been witnessed by tens of millions of Chinese fans on state run sportschannel CCTV 5 and, as of Monday, Lin had more than 800,000 fans on his microblogging account.

Yao became one of China's most popular public figures on the back of his exploits as a trailblazer in the NBA, topping the Forbes China celebrity list for six years from its inception in 2004 for both his influence and earnings.

Much of his income - in excess of $50 million for both 2008 and 2009 according to Forbes - came from lucrative deals to promote the likes of Pepsi, Visa, Apple, McDonalds and Reebok as he cashed in on a profile boosted by eight selections to the NBA's All Star game.

Lin, who has described Yao as a "big brother" figure and played in the Shanghai giant's charity game in Taiwan in 2010, 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 NBA luminaries like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant both on and off the court as top American professionals are now fixtures in Chinese advertising campaigns and frequently visit the country for promotional tours.

Stephon Marbury, himself a former point guard for the Knicks, took his one-man promotional campaign for his "Starbury" athletic shoes straight to the marketplace and has played for two seasons in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) league.

Yao is a Shanghai native and was a stalwart of the national basketball team and Lin's parentage might not be enough of a draw for some in the increasingly sophisticated China market.

"If Yao Ming is China's largest export to the United States then Jeremy Lin is now America's self-produced, self-sold, fully-customized product for the Chinese market," a Chinese netizen posted on Weibo under the name Anakin Skywalker this week.

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