The sports story of the year to this point has been Jeremy Lin. The undervalued Harvard graduate is making waves in the NBA, and no one saw it coming. He was signed, and subsequently cut, by two franchises before he landed with the New York Knicks. Even with the Knicks he was undervalued early as he was sent down to the Development League. Since being called back up to the NBA, he has been the underdog story everyone can root for. He scored 38 points against Kobe and the Lakers. He led his team to 6 straight wins and is averaging 24.6 points per game. His jersey’s the item every NBA fan wants right now, and Knicks ticket sales on StubHub grew from 17% of the NBA market to 52% (via @StubHubJo).
Jeremy Lin has created a brand known by all NBA fans. “Linsanity” or “Lincredible” are often thrown around on social media whenever Jeremy Lin is playing. What has he done so right? Other players have streaks like the one his is on now, although those players usually aren’t starting in the NBA for the first time in their careers. His brand has grown because it was an unexpected result. Lin is of Chinese and Taiwanese decent, wasn’t recruited by major Universities for basketball, attended Harvard, and went undrafted. No one could see what was coming based on his background.
Dwayne Flinchum wrote about building brand through performancerecently. Flinchum says, “Lin has defied the odds and focused on achieving excellence in the face of tremendous adversity.” Lin’s brand hasn’t been built solely on performance. He has played out of his mind, but his brand is deeper than performance. He represents something that hasn’t been done and wasn’t expected to be done. This is a valuable lesson anyone charged with establishing a brand. There are formulas for success which can be followed and repeated a hundred times, but to stick out with a large audience, there needs to be an unexpected element brought to the table. In other words, don’t reinvent the wheel, but overcome what is expected.