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The Untapped Market for LaVar Ball’s Shoe

In the last three months, one could argue the most polarizing figure in sports is LaVar Ball. With the announcement of the Z02, LaVar and his Big Baller Brand are at the center of the media’s attention again.

Sadly, the media has directed all of its questions and concerns about the price of the shoe. Just in case you haven’t heard, the shoe is being listed at a staggering $495. People have expressed concerns about the shoe’s price, however, a market already exists for the Z02, China.

The Chinese Market

For many this might come as a shock. Why? Because at no point has LaVar Ball or a representative of his brand even mentioned the idea of overseas marketing. If LaVar Ball and his company are as smart and revolutionary as they claim to be, they have done this on purpose.

Let’s examine the Chinese consumer as it relates to culture. According to Santander, one of the largest areas of growth in China has been in the luxury goods and services market. This can be attributed to their collectivist societal belief. In China, more importance is placed on the group than the individual. Chinese consumers have a strong desire to belong to a group, specifically, the affluent.

This has been documented as one of the key factors in the rise of golf’s popularity in China over the last few years. While a specific timeframe isn’t provided, the number of Chinese consumers playing golf has a exploded. Santander reports “over one million taking up the sport in recent years.”

Aside from their collectivist belief, market research has revealed an even more important trend. Chinese consumers believe price to be strong indicator of quality. Price, along with sales services, are the most important selection criteria, according to McKinsey & Company. There has also been an incredible shift since 2011 in the willingness to purchase expensive apparel, as well as in other consumer goods.

So, there is clearly an opportunity in China for LaVar Ball and his Z02 among the general consumer. However, let’s examine the NBA popularity in China for a better understanding of the opportunity.

The NBA In China

In 2017, it’s no longer a stretch to say that basketball, specifically the NBA, has become part of the culture in China. This fact has become even more apparent as the NBA has started to play games in China. Fran Blinbury of, outlined the connection the NBA and it’s stars have built with the Chinese consumer.

LaVar Ball
The success of the Z02 in China will no doubt be impacted by how early Lonzo Ball achieves success.

“The fans gather outside the team hotels seeking autographs, photos or just a glimpse of the players.”

“Harden is so handsome, was a phrase repeated by many over and over outside of the Ritz-Carlton.”

“But they are not just star-worshipers. They know everyone from the second-year Rocket Sam Dekker, who was injured and did not play as a rookie, to veteran center Nene.”

It may seem silly to talk about a player being handsome as proof of an NBA connection, but it’s relevant. Fans across the world are waiting outside of hotels just to get a glimpse of an NBA player; that is the epitome of a personal connection.

The NBA is also connecting with the consumer through the TV screen. According to CNN, close to 50 million people tuned into the Rockets and Pelicans preseason game. Once again, a preseason NBA game, drew almost 50 million viewers. The article also reported that over 760 million fans watched the NBA during the 2015-2016 season.

As the NBA continues to market its game and its stars in China, the opportunity will only grow larger. An opportunity, that in my opinion, LaVar Ball cannot overlook.

What LaVar Ball Can’t Control

It’s clear there’s an incredible opportunity for LaVar Ball and his brand. Sadly, there is one thing no analyst or market research can predict: the success of Lonzo Ball. The NBA, more so than any other league, is driven by it’s stars. The stars get commercials, apparel, and marketing campaigns.

If Lonzo Ball can break into the league and have success in his first two or three years, the sky is the limit for the Big Baller Brand.

This could be the perfect storm for Lavar Ball and his company. His product and brand are a great fit for the Chinese consumer. Hopefully, the Big Baller Brand will understand the opportunity in front them and capitalize.

If LaVar Ball wants to accomplish his dream of elevating his brand to the status of Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, China will have to be a vital part of his plan.


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