You may not know who he is. If you do, there is a good chance you do not like him. But he doesn't seem to care. All LaVar Ball cares about is that articles like this are written about him.
If you don’t know who LaVar Ball is, watch this.
LaVar Ball is the father of 3 high profile basketball prospects, the oldest of which has entered this year’s NBA draft. Lonzo Ball, LaVar's oldest son, is expected to be a top 3 pick in the NBA.
Since the NCAA tournament in March, it has been LaVar Ball that has been making all the headlines. He has declared his son better than Stephan Curry, one of the best players in the NBA today. He has declared himself a better player than Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, both NBA legends. For a list of his most outlandish claims, just read this USA Today article.
The media love LaVar Ball because he’s controversial. He has been a topic of discussion on ESPN, Fox Sports, USA Today and on and on. He has been a guest on most of the relevant sports-related radio and TV shows that exist. And they love to hate him. They question his efficacy as a father and role model for his children. They accuse him of making the road harder for his talented sons.
In a culminating event, it was published earlier this week that not one of the three major basketball shoe companies (Nike, Under Armor & Adidas) will sign Lonzo Ball to a shoe deal. And the media, as you can tell by this headline, are loving every minute of it.
Two days after being rejected by those companies, Big Baller Brand shoe company (owned by the Ball family) announced the launch Lonzo Ball’s ZO2 basketball shoe for $495. The media is calling it “ridiculous.”
To which I say, “Is it?”
This brings me to the point: content marketers can learn from LaVar Ball.
LaVar Ball has been running a clinic on how to publish compelling content (mostly himself) to garner free publicity and media attention. Here are the three biggest things we should take from LaVar.
Look at the linear timeline I just laid out and consider how brilliant a content marketer LaVar Ball is. While he has long been known to be a character, the proverbial volume of his behavior (content) increased right at the time his hot NBA prospect son was playing in the biggest tournament of the year. He parlayed that into MILLIONS-of-dollars-worth of free press, all while beginning the promotion of his Big Baller Brand company. The press condemned him all while giving him air time.
He gives what the media what it wants; interesting and marketable content. He doesn't care that people hate him. As long as people are talking about him. Like it or not folks, the media has bills to pay, too. They need eyeballs, and LaVar Ball draws attention.
3. Think Differently
LaVar doesn’t want to give away millions of dollars of his son’s brand to corporate machines like Nike and Under Armor—so he flipped the script.
Two days after it was announced that Lonzo Ball was “rejected” by the three corporate shoe monsters, he announces the launch of his own flagship shoe at double the price point of their flagship shoes. Now LaVar Ball didn’t design, develop and launch his own shoes in a few days, so who rejected who, exactly?
Michael Bennett, star player for the Seattle Seahawks, who is endorsed by Nike tweeted that he will buy a pair of the ZO2’s. Why? Because Bennett knows that LaVar and Lonzo Ball are trying change the player branding paradigm so that the player makes the bulk of the money. And with the advent of 3D printing, we just may be entering an era where the giant shoe brands need the players more than the players need the giant shoe brands.
But back to LaVar Ball's marketing approach. Welcome to the new world, everybody. A world where 15 minutes of fame lasts a lifetime, where being famous is a skill in-and-of-itself and being outlandish is expected. It’s coming, and it’s coming fast, and we all have the original LaVar Ball—Kris Jenner—to thank for it. Do I like it? Nope. Do I think the human click bait mentality that seems to be ruling digital media is healthy? Nope. Will 8-Point Arc engage in a similar approach for our brand? Nope. But, its hard to argue with it's effectiveness.
Will LaVar Ball succeed? As a business proposition, I honestly hope he does. I LOVE what LaVar Ball is doing from a business model perspective, even if I don’t love the way in which he is doing it. He's taking on the establishment and trying to keep the most value for his highly marketable sons. He seems willing to be the Vince McMahon in front of this new version of the WWE. I do wish he didn't resort to some of the tactics he does to garner attention. However, I worry that he has something figured out what many of us refuse to accept-and thats that; it works.
So the real question is, "Yeah, it works, but at what cost?" Exactly how much are dignity and integrity worth these days? We can learn from LaVar Ball's mastery of timing and differentiation, but we all have to define the value system by which we operate.
We named our podcast Be Better, Be Different for a reason. Is LaVar Ball “better?” Remains to be seen. But he certainly is “different,” and like it or not, his content marketing is working like a charm.