LaVar Ball and the Tricky Thing About Branding


Brand like a baller, but not like the Big Baller Brand. 

LaVar Ball, the father of 2017 NBA top-prospect Lonzo Ball, became more than a smudge on our cultural consciousness during this year's March Madness. Not for playing, but for talking. Loudly. About his son. To anyone who would listen.

Lonzo stars in the cinematic highlight reel in LaVar’s vivid, unrestrained imagination. Tonight, he joins the ranks of the NBA elites in the 2017 NBA Draft. By many accounts, Lonzo is a good, even great, basketball player. And according to his father, “Lonzo is going to be the first one drafted with his own brand. That don’t happen.”

Of course, there’s a reason for that: A brand needs to develop.

Think of a brand like food: organic > manufactured   

A brand is a promise or experience – not a name, logo or a pair of $500 shoes. Unabashed brand manufacturer, LaVar created Big Baller Brand without making a promise or letting the experience develop. The Big Baller Brand itself is based on his son’s assumed success, but also synonymous with the outspoken, seemingly delusional father.

It would be unfair, like him or not, to call LaVar’s branding endeavor a failure. We just don’t know. If Lonzo takes the NBA by storm and wins Rookie of the Year, LaVar looks like a marketing wiz. If not, the Big Baller Brand looks a bit deflated. The brand will go as Lonzo goes – a precarious marketing platform given the randomness of professional sports.

Take the clear path to brand development

Now, let’s say you have a brand still in its infancy – one without a boisterous spokesperson. First of all, it’s likely that your brand isn’t a brand at all – not yet anyway. It’s a product or service you intensely obsess over. That’s a good thing and should remain your focus. Be good – nay, great! – at whatever you do. Your brand starts there. After that, keep these few things in mind:

Let your brand develop organically – As your brand grows, you establish a reputation and, in that process, discover a target audience and the ideal place within the market. It’s important to let your brand develop naturally. Follow your passion, enjoy the learning experience and don’t force things. There’s a chance you will learn something about your brand – or about yourself – that you didn’t already know.

Be a promise, not a logo. Consider brand loyalty for second. Why are people loyal to certain brands of soda? Detergent? Underwear? Trust, comfort, satisfaction – to name a few reasons. When a brand becomes a promise, customer transactions start to carry certain expectations. This is a key part of developing your brand: consistently delivering on its promise – again and again and again.

Make sure your brand speaks for itself. You know how if someone says they’re cool, they’re probably not that cool? It’s kind of like that. Don’t focus on telling the audience that your brand/service/product is the best. Instead, focus on differentiators, like what sets your brand apart, and tell the story from there. 

Big ballin’ ain’t easy nor is it an ideal branding method

Other than sounding uninspired and like the first idea out of exactly one, the Big Baller Brand doesn’t encourage trust or evoke confidence. There’s no richness of history or – perhaps worst of all – reason to believe. What the Big Baller Brand lacks in brand equity and reputation, it makes up for in bluster and narcissism. Is it doomed to fail? Certainly not. However, it’s easier to build a house on solid ground than on assumed athletic success that operates with the capriciousness of mud.

A solid brand warrants more than bravado, a crappy website and overpriced flip-flops ($220 - err). Your brand – the entirety of all that grueling work and those late nights you spent developing and obsessing over whatever you’re passionate about – deserves better, too. It deserves the same care and handling that went into the product or service in the first place. Then when you deliver, time and time again, the brand develops, it makes (and keeps!) its promise and develops an honest relationship with your customers.

Do you need to pay off all the hard work with the right message or are you interested in a brand audit to help see where you’re positioned within the market? Give us a shout!


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