Let me start by saying that I understand LaVar Ball’s mission to control his son’s brand. We’ve seen this before: Master P, Jay Z, Diddy, and recently, Chance the Rapper. There is something to be said about not acquiescing to the gatekeepers and building something on one’s own.
Most entertainment industries are proving grounds for innovation and disruption. Tyler Perry created a formula for making profitable movies that targeted black audiences. His television production strategy is to get to 100 episodes as fast as possible to ensure syndication. If you turn on TBS or OWN, there is clear evidence that his approach was successful. And as a black man, I support other black men stepping up and risking it all in an effort to create generational wealth.
However, I have many reservations when it comes to LaVar Ball and his Big Baller Brand. Let’s start with the name: I hate it. The name sounds like something he came up with in college and held on to it. If this name was the result blabbering business names while binge drinking cheap beer and downing Cheetos, I’d be more forgiving. Outsite of that, having Big Baller as a brand name strikes me as amateurish.
Compounding my problem with the name is the release of their signature shoe, the ZO2. It retails for $495. This is luxury brand pricing. LaVar defended the price of the shoe:
Big Baller’s loose! If you can’t afford the ZO2’S, you’re NOT a BIG BALLER! 💰
— Lavar Ball (@Lavarbigballer) May 4, 2017
Apparently, his definition of Baller is someone with a large bank account. Zo hasn’t stepped on an NBA court; wouldn’t it have been better to define Zo as the Baller and cater to the other young people aspiring to be in Zo’s position? Baller shouldn’t be some abstract idea of wealth; it should be the person who is balling on the court, strive to make it to the highest echelon of basketball. After all, isn’t that who Zo is? The name would then make sense. As it stands, it’s just a pretentious, middle life crisis brand name.
Moreover, the name doesn’t strike me as universal. I don’t know how well the women in my circle represent the average female consumer, but they emphatically stated they wouldn’t wear anything that had Big Baller tattooed on it. Considering that Nike is aggressively expanding into the $5 billion women athletic apparel market, Big Baller Brand could alienate a growing segment before it even gets off the ground.
I’m not a fan of the talking that LaVar Ball does. I think it overshadows his son but it’s not something worth investing much time with. He is who he is and it’s served him and his sons well thus far. After reports about the meetings that took place with the major shoe brands, he may want to consider moderating his antics. If at some point it becomes necessary to scale up production, it will require capital and partners along the entire supply chain. Relationships matter and he should be cognitive of that fact.
There is still one major hurdle they must clear: can Zo play ball? It will take at least three years to determine if the young man can hold his own on the NBA level. While he develops, does the brand have enough cache to sustain? How closely tied is Zo’s NBA success to Big Baller Brand? If he’s just average, is that enough to propel a luxury brand? Can the brand attract other NBA prospects and players to better the odds of success?
It will be interesting to watch the evolution of this company. LaVar’s personality suggests that his company will achieve billion-dollar status or crash into oblivion while trying. I don’t think there is an in-between for this guy.