Linsanity as we know it is over. But what will come next?
The broad outlines are known: Jeremy Lin, the underdog Harvard graduate point guard for the New York Knicks who shockingly catapulted to NBA and social media stardom in February, is leaving the Big Apple after the team declined to match a lucrative contract offer from the Houston Rockets this week.
So ends one of the most exciting, unexpected and in some ways bizarre chapters of American sports history since the dawn of the social networking age.
Lin became a superstar under the scrutinizing — or, in his case, largely adoring — lens of New York City media hype. As he dominated the NBA for a brief stretch, Lin exponentially gained Twitter followers, became a human interest mega-story and a topic of endless fan and ESPN fascination (okay, Mashable fascination too).
He transformed from an NBA hanger-on to a social media powerhouse and marketing darling as Linsanity ruled the web.
Now he is leaving Madison Avenue —and the world’s media capital — behind. What this means for Linsanity is less clear. Three marketing experts Mashable spoke with say Lin’s attractiveness to marketers and advertisers will depend primarily on how he performs on the court next season — but that his status as an Internet rockstar will certainly help maintain relevance.
“Nowadays that’s a big aspect, when marketers can look to some kind of metric to understand how beloved someone is by the public,” says Kenneth Wisnefski, a brand strategist and CEO of the Internet marketing company WebiMax.
Leaving New York for a market with less competition from other teams and celebrities could end up helping Lin too, enabling him to get sponsorships and deals that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, says Eric Smallwood of the marketing analytics agency Front Row.
The only major deals Lin has signed so far are with Nike, Volvo and Steiner Sports, but he recently told SI.com that, “If I really wanted to, I could have triple-digit endorsements.” Joining Houston also gives Lin, who is Taiwanese American, another advantage, and some say it was his best possible move for further penetrating a vast Asian market. The Rockets have experience successfully marketing there with Yao Ming, the retired Chinese center.
Tim Tebow proved in Denver that an athlete doesn’t have to come from an iconic franchise or city to become a walking meme and human cash register. No matter where he goes, Lin will always have one big thing going for him, says Columbia University instructor and sports marketing expert Joe Favorito: “He made his debut on Broadway.”
And that’s partly why Linsanity, as both a marketing force and Internet sensation, won’t die. February was a magical time that can’t be repeated by anyone, but Lin has been forever thrown into a cauldron of fame, celebrity and perpetual examination that social media has intensified over the past few years. Whether marked by support, schadenfreude — or, most likely, both — that won’t ever change.
Linsanity version 1.0 is over. Linsanity version 2.0 won’t be the same, but could prove just as fascinating.