The Power of Monetizing Hobbies
For anyone who has been paying attention to pop culture and media it is hard to have missed the hype around NBA rookie Lonzo Ball. The California High School star was a top NCAA player at UCLA for a year and now finds himself on the Lakers as the number 2 overall pick in this year’s draft. Certainly having the star filled backdrop of LA remain as his environment was in part as strategic as it is fitting, but what seems to be most strategic (and what we care a lot about here at Pixels & Pads) is the huge branding efforts made by his father Lavar Ball and the family owned Big Baller Brand.
This week Lonzo released his second song “Zo2,” a part of an obvious promotional roll out for his new sneaker. The internet is speaking and the general consensus is that it isn't the worst rap we've heard, not just from an athlete but... in general perhaps.
Now we won't debate here the relativity of ‘good’ in reference to the current state of hip hop, but for the sake of this convo Lonzo has been vocal about his taste in music (with his top 5 rapper twitter list containing Future), and even moreover his cringe worthy comment claiming, “No one listens to Nas anymore.” If anything Lonzo represents a new generation that isn't exactly directly linked to what many of us call hip hop...it may be more appropriate to call him a product of “hip-pop” culture and the controversy around he and his family’s branding efforts mirror this reality as well.
Earlier this summer Lonzo was heard rapping on his first released song “Melo 1,” that seemingly was created to promote the Big Baller Brand debut of the signature shoe for his kid brother Lamelo Ball. This obviously has come with much controversy as no high school player has ever had a signature shoe. What must be noticed here is the consistent self branding efforts of the family.
Furthermore, what I would like to focus in on here is what our creative director Wes Pendleton and I always speak about in regards to what sets certain social media influencers and public figures apart from one another--monetization. The Big Baller Brand (controversial or not) has made huge steps toward monetizing what the Ball brothers would already be doing as work/hobby and leisure anyway. “Oh Lonzo you want to get in the booth to mess around and rap? Ok, just make sure it's about this shoe we are trying to sell. Or how about getting footage of us just living our day to day life highlighting it as a ‘baller lifestyle,’ and making it an online reality show series?” If you follow my point you see that this is the wave of digital media marketing that is available to anyone right now. The times have shown us that you can be considered foolish if you have thousands of followers online and not get one cent from it.
Rapping pro basketball players isn’t new, nor is entrepreneurship and self business with pro athletes, but the thing that is important to note about Lonzo and his family is what they are specifically doing with their brand to establish an empire. The reluctant and quite absurd independent battle with the major shoe brands is monumental because even if they don't win the war (which they won’t) they've somewhat gained a victory in battle. Being controversial and sitting at the top of the headlines is usually an effective marketing tool, along with the exclusivity of the price range (heck, Jay Z bought a couple pairs of BBB sneaks already), the brand has an independent shoe endorsing a top athlete (though we must continue to remember that the kid has not played a regular season game yet). Nevertheless, it's important not to miss what is being done here; yes many hate how obnoxious and vocal Lonzo’s father Lavar Ball is, but his methods seem to be working more than we would like to acknowledge. The worst thing that could happen is that his kids become busts in the NBA, but it shows much promise to realize that the family has already managed to acquire booming success while the NBA season opener is still weeks away. Ball shows us the timely power of entrepreneurship, branding, building generational wealth, and how the independent entity always still has a chance in this digital age.