*Whether you like him or not, LaVar Ball knows how to make headlines and get criticism, which he seems to relish in happily.
Much of the controversy revolves around the retired professional football player’s overbearing advice to his oldest son currently vying for the NBA, especially the Lakers. LaVar also gets blasted for the unconventional way he runs his sporting goods company Big Baller Brand.
Lonzo Ball, LaVar’s oldest son, played for one season as a pass-first point guard at UCLA before opting in for the 2017 NBA draft. LaVar has made it a point to tout that his 19-year-old son is better than Stephen Curry and LeBron James.
To make matters worse – or better – depending on how you look at it, LaVar also lets everyone know about the “championship” basketball skills of his younger sons LiAngelo and LaMelo, whom he believes will also take UCLA and the NBA by storm.
LaVar’s love for sports and his sons led to the Big Baller Brand, which launched last year. Sports professionals and enthusiasts were stunned when the ZO2 signature shoe line for Lonzo was released with the main pair of sneakers debuting at $495. Many have been quick to point out that the highest price of a pair of Michael Jordan shoes only go for $400.
Shaquille O’Neal, who has his own shoe line ranging from $13 and $68 at Walmart, tweeted out on May 4, 2017, “Hey @Lavarbigballer real big baller brands don’t over charge kids for shoes.”
LaVar answered his critics also on May 4 with this tweet, “Big Baller’s loose! If you can’t afford the ZO2’S, you’re NOT a BIG BALLER!
So, is LaVar a shrewd entrepreneur or acting like a rookie?
“In this day and age it’s tough to know if he’s the biggest idiot or incredibly smart,” said Dave Sutton, founder of strategic marketing firm TopRight. “It’s really tough to tell. My money is on that he is playing a very aggressive game in terms of trying to build awareness for the brand and being that outspoken sports personality that a lot of people gravitate toward him. It certainly garners a lot of attention toward his activity. The longer term question – is he going to have the staying power of a Nike Under, Armour, or Adidas?”
Sutton continues, “He has not shown the patience to build a brand from the ground up. It’s more a celebrity brand, which you and I both know, celebrities come and go. The best brands, the Coca Cola’s and Apple’s of the world, stand the test of time.”
ESPN recently reported that Lonzo Ball lost a potential five-year, $20 million shoe deal with Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas when his dad insisted that the sneaker giants license and distribute the Big Baller Brand as part of the agreements. Sutton says it is just too soon for the big companies to buy in.
“What that tells me right now,” said Sutton. “Is that they don’t see the trajectory to success. It’s not that they don’t see potential but it just doesn’t make sense for them to put money behind him in some way even if in a licensing deal right now because the jury’s still out. It’s too early and they don’t know what to think of him.”
Sutton added: “Look at what Magic Johnson built. He wasn’t a business guy to start. You can get aligned with the right people and surround yourself with smart people who do know how to build a business. Build a brand.”
Sutton’s main advice for LaVar is for his business to have a real purpose and to cut out the often too personal side of his message.
“Number one, he has to come at this with a higher purpose, said “Sutton. “Now everything is focused on his personal accomplishments, accomplishments of his children, his credentials-it’s what I would call an affiliation branding strategy. You want to be like Lonzo and be Like LaVar, which is fine but provided that they are successful, right? The ‘I want to be like Mike’ was a fantastic campaign for Nike but let’s remember that Michael Jordan had about a decade worth of performance under his belt before that claim was made.”
Sutton also made the point that, “When I look at Under Amour, for example as a brand, they’re not building themselves purely around any given celebrity or sports personality. What they’ve created as a higher purpose is a brand that overcomes obstacles, that helps you become a winner, helps the underdog and targets folks that are hungry and competing to be the best. It’s got universal appeal. It’s not based on the purpose of one individual or one superstar in the sports world.”
Check out LaVar Ball’s Big Baller Brand here. For more information on David Sutton and his company TopRight, click here. Meanwhile, according to news reports, Lonzo Ball will work out with the Lakers on June 7 and is expected to meet the coaching staff and front-office personnel. Lonzo may also consider meeting with the Philadelphia 76ers. Whatever happens, we know LaVar Ball will be there with him all of the way.