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NBA's 'Linsanity' offers marketing promise

From Khara Lewin, CNN
updated 5:24 AM EST, Thu February 16, 2012
Sports merchandisers wonder if Jeremy Lin's success will help them sell to Asians.
Sports merchandisers wonder if Jeremy Lin's success will help them sell to Asians.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lin is a "marketing dream come true," one PR executive says
  • The former unknown has guided the Knicks to seven straight wins
  • New York media have dubbed the phenomenon "Linsanity"
  • President Barack Obama is also apparently "very impressed" with the unlikely star

New York (CNN) -- Jeremy Lin, the 23-year-old point guard of Taiwanese descent who has come out of nowhere to guide the New York Knicks to seven straight wins, has left many wondering if he can also help his team gain ground among Asian consumers.

"Jeremy Lin is a marketing dream come true," said Ronn Torossian, chief executive of New York-based 5W Public Relations. "If somebody had a checklist of what a brand should be, Jeremy Lin hits every one."

It has been only 10 days since the Harvard graduate was called off the bench, immediately becoming the Knicks' unlikely savior. In his first game, he scored 25 points to help his team beat the New Jersey Nets, and last Friday, his 38 points outscored Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers for another Knicks win.

New York media have dubbed the phenomenon "Linsanity," and the previously unknown economics major has exploded on social media, reaching more than 300,000 followers on Twitter.

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His last-second heroics Tuesday, sinking a game-winning 3-point shot against the Toronto Raptors, have only added to the buzz. On Wednesday, Lin had a career-best 13 assists to lead the Knicks past the Sacramento Kings.

"He's made the Knicks relevant again," said Larry Dimitriou, manager of a Modell's Sporting Goods store in Manhattan.

Dimitriou started selling Lin's No. 17 jersey last week and said he has since had trouble keeping them in stock.

"We constantly get Lin jerseys every day," he said. "I put one in the window to show people we have them. A short time later, they're gone."

President Barack Obama is also apparently "very impressed" with the NBA's new star, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday.

But some say Lin's appeal and market potential aren't unique.

Chinese national Yao Ming, who at 7 feet, 6 inches burst onto the scene during the 2002-03 NBA season, helped his Houston Rockets expand merchandise sales and viewership in Chinese markets over his eight seasons with the team, analysts say.

Whether Lin could fill the void left by Yao's retirement is unclear, though some appear cautious.

"We have to remember, it's only 10 days in," noted Roman Garcia, director of digital strategy at Taylor Strategy, a public relations firm. "We know Lin is really good at pushing the ball down the court but we have yet to see if he's good at pushing a brand, or a community."

What's most important, Garcia said, is whether Lin has that potential.

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