New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin is a great basketball player, and that distinction will probably stick with him until he eventually hangs up his sneakers. Over the last couple of weeks, however, Lin has also earned another tag that has a much shorter lifespan, one that he will inevitably lose sooner rather than later: crossover mainstream hit.
Much like Tim Tebow before him, following his crazy rollercoaster ride to superstardom, Lin became a sensation outside the sports arena. Politicians, media personalities and folks who have never followed basketball in their lives became infatuated with the Knicks point guard. Linsanity became so infectious, in fact, that it even had an impact on the stock market.
The difference between rising to relevance as a basketball player and rising to relevance as a mainstream celebrity is simple – the latter distinction doesn’t last. Your 15 minutes of fame inevitably end at some point, and at that point you’re left with the former distinction: you’re either good at what you do or you’re not.
Lin and his representatives understand how volatile the adoration he’s currently getting from the mainstream is. While everyone agrees that he’ll always be able to fall back on being an excellent basketball player, the point of emphasis for all involved in the Lin brand at this moment is how to capitalize off the giant wave of momentum they’ve built up over the last two weeks.
That momentum could disappear with one bad decision – a point Lin and his team is all too aware of.
And that’s where them being very picky as far as what endorsement deals to take comes into the equation. According to the New York Post, Lin and his people are wary of agreeing to endorse products that they don't think go with his "squeaky-clean image." The wariness stems, obviously, from a fear that a single bad endorsement deal could jeopardize all the built up mainstream goodwill that Lin has accumulated up over his short reign as the biggest star in sports.
Per the report:
Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin has brands banging down his door in hopes of tapping him as a potential global-marketing juggernaut. But Lin, who already has the NBA’s best-selling jersey, and his inner circle are passing on easy money and quick deals to seek opportunities that will fit his squeaky-clean image.
“Jeremy’s agent, Roger Montgomery, has had over 1,000 e-mails from companies who want to strike endorsement deals with him,” said a source. “There’s been so much interest, and so many people reaching out, it is overwhelming. They’re working to build a team to handle all this, and hiring marketing and p.r. executives. He has met with IMG.”
The Post article also noted the importance of Lin’s Harvard education in all this, and how that fits into his decision-making process. Whereas a lot of athletes have limited business savvy and are entirely dependent on their representatives to make the right business decisions for them, Lin -- theoretically, at least -- has a certain breadth of knowledge that should serve him well.
Regardless of whether Linsanity as a mainstream craze lasts or not, it’s nice to see that Lin and his people are aware of how fleeting crossover success truly is. That understanding of how the world works should ensure that, regardless of what winds up happening, Lin will land on his feet no matter what.