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Jeremy Lin’s Volvo Deal Puts “Linsanity” in Perspective

Now that “Linsanity” has officially been replaced by Manning Watch or Tebowmania or whatever other spectacle ESPN is pushing this week, we can finally take a look at Jeremy Lin’s emergence for what it really was and is.

Between Feb. 4 and Feb. 22, Lin scored at least 17 points and passed out at least seven assists in all but one game. In that same stretch, the New York Knicks won nine of their 11 outings and appeared to be on the verge of becoming the third best team in the Eastern Conference. Almost instantly, ESPN and the rest of the world zeroed in on the fact that one of the NBA’s marquee franchises was being led by an Asian-American kid out of Harvard.

The concept of “Linsanity” was born shortly thereafter.

Much like Tebowmania before it, Linsanity was largely pushed forward by fans who didn’t follow the Knicks at all. In the same way that devoutly religious, casual-football-fans-at-best people played a huge role in making Tebow the NFL’s biggest star, folks who loved the idea of an Asian-American kid out of Harvard being the one to bring the Knicks out of their abyss were the ones to dub the youngster New York’s savior.

How legit was Linsanity at its peak? Legit enough to push Madison Square Garden (MSG) stock to its all-time high value right around the middle of February..

By the beginning of March, however, Carmelo Anthony’s return to the lineup had thrown off all semblance of the Knicks’ chemistry. The team predictably floundered, and head coach Mike D’Antoni eventually stepped down when the losing became too much for anyone to take. Linsanity had seemingly simmered out at some point along the way, and all the folks who had jumped on the bandwagon in February had long since jumped off.

And that’s how we got to this point.

So is Linsanity now officially dead? Eh. More than anything, it has evolved.  

The whole concept of Linsanity was far more a casual fan/media-driven tidal wave than anything real basketball fans or businesses actually bought into. Obviously there was a boom in merchandise sales and TV ratings when Lin was at his most popular, but the endgame for businesses and advertisers wasn’t impacted in the slightest when the hype petered off. For them, Linsanity was always the idea of having a marketable, likeable Asian-American basketball superstar that they could utilize in markets that had been left wide open when Yao Ming’s retired (plus probably before that, too).

And that’s why this past Monday, Volvo announced that it had inked Lin to a two-year sponsorship deal. Notice that it happened this week, despite the fact that New York is just beginning to climb out of the hole it climbed into following Anthony’s return.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

The New York Knicks star has signed a global brand endorsement contract with the automaker that will focus on the U.S., China and Chinese-language markets in Asia, the company announced Monday.

Over the next two years, Lin will participate in the company’s corporate, advertising and marketing activities as a brand ambassador.

"You may not immediately see the connection between me and Volvo, but both of us are striving to be better and smarter at what we do, and to do it our own way,” Lin said at a news conference. “I hope that my efforts will inspire more young people to follow their ambitions in sports and education, just like Volvo Car Corp. is designing cars around people's ambitions in life."

Linsanity V1.0 may have been driven by nutty casual fans looking to leech onto a cool new sports superstar, but it still accomplished what it needed to. It shined light on a talented point guard playing in the NBA’s biggest market and whose game remained consistently solid throughout. His appeal to Asian markets is just as high today as it was a month ago, and the lessened public scrutiny from folks who don’t understand basketball anyway has probably been a blessing in disguise.

For all intents and purposes, Linsanity as we once knew it is dead. However, it’s now clearly been reborn in a much more palatable, bearable way that will likely benefit Lin far more in the long run.

Expect to see him sign a lot more Volvo-esque deals in the near future.

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