What marketers can learn from Lavar Ball

The retired football player and founder of Big Baller Brand is proof that you don't need an MBA to be a successful marketer, writes mono's creative director.

Over the years, the marketing industry has slowly and steadily fallen asleep at the wheel. Social media, the possibility of instant virility, political correctness: It has led to a bunch of brands that look, act and talk the same. It's time for us to find a way to break brands out of this slumber, and I think we can take a lesson from Lavar Ball.

The first time I saw Lavar Ball was on TMZ Sports two months ago. He was being interviewed via Skype, and was claiming his oldest son Lonzo Ball was a better basketball player than two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry. At the time, Lonzo was a freshman at UCLA and was quickly becoming one of the top collegiate players in the country. But, to say that he was better than Stephen Curry seemed ridiculous, and media and sports fans agreed. A week later, Lavar Ball was at it again, saying he himself could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one. And just like that, Lavar Ball became a globally-recognized name.

Lavar is proof you don't need an MBA to be a successful marketer.  He's been on the biggest and best TV and radio sports shows. He's been grooming his three sons to play in the NBA since they were born, and they probably all will. And he has built a sports fashion company, Big Baller Brand, out of his home. 

You don't need to love Lavar Ball as a person, but you can't deny he's crushing it. His sudden marketing success has a lot of method mixed in with the madness, and here's what marketers can learn from it all:  

Develop a compelling, genuine story
For the past 20 years, Lavar Ball and his wife have dedicated themselves to raising their three sons, Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo, for the NBA. Lavar told his boys that their future was all planned. "These boys were born to go pro. Your mom's a P.E. teacher, I'm a personal trainer, your last name is Ball. How much more lined up can you be?"

Lavar groomed Lonzo into one of the top 2017 NBA Draft Lottery picks. And, it looks like his other two sons have a bright basketball future as well. Along with the incredible amount of confidence Lavar is instilling in his boys, he's also giving them a real grounding in family. There is so much depth to their story, which is what makes it so compelling.

Establish a strong and consistent voice
Lavar's personality is his brand. It's arrogant, outlandish and, to many people, off-putting. There are "Top 10 Quotes from Lavar Ball" posts all over social media, and many people say they make him sound crazy, stupid and put too much pressure on his sons' basketball careers. However, those same people can't stop talking about him. And when people ask his sons if they feel too much pressure from their dad they reply, "No, it doesn't bother us. He's talked like that for as long as we can remember." Unlike most brands, Lavar doesn't get rattled by tough questions, criticisms or failure. His voice and entertainment value are always on point and consistent. 

When the world zigs, zag
Pretty much everything Lavar has done to this point has been to stand out instead of blend in. He said Lonzo is better than Stephen Curry. He said he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one. He developed the Big Baller Brand ZO2 basketball shoe without any help from Nike, Adidas or Under Armour. And, he priced the shoe at $495 (which is three times more expensive than the average athlete shoe). All these antics have gone against the status quo. And those same antics have earned Lavar Ball more national media coverage than most brands and pro athletes in the past two-to-three months. If Lavar had played by the rules and chose to do things the "normal" way, no one would be talking about him.

No one knows how Lavar Ball's Big Baller Brand story will end. Much of it will depend on his sons' basketball careers. But, up to this point, he has captivated the country by doing everything the Lavar way, which is unique and interesting. And people are paying attention.

—T. Scott Major is creative director at mono.  

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