Jeremy Lin is a Chinese Marketing Juggernaut


It’s been over a year since “Linsanity” took over in New York City before spurring a global marketing phenomenon. Since then, Jeremy Lin has become the face of numerous brands in China and Taiwan, including Nike, Gatorade, Volvo and KFC. It’s the last of those brands that’s currently using Lin in a way that Western consumers would likely never see, shedding some light on why Lin is such a valuable spokesperson in Asia.

China (and Taiwan) have seemingly become Lin’s regualr off-season home after he shot to stardom. He is nearly as well integrated in Asian culture as he is in the US, with a Weibo account as robust as his Twitter. And when he’s not being mobbed by fans, Lin spends his time touring the country with his JLin Basketball Camp and visiting sickly orphans. Could Asia ask for a better role model?[more]

Asia can’t get enough of him. While in Beijing, he’ll likely see his image plastered on Gatorade bottles and billboards. If he swings by one of the counterfeit markets, he’ll likely find plenty of both his Knicks and Rockets jerseys, though there are plenty of legitimate ones available in Nike’s Beijing flagship store. But perhaps the most unique tribute comes from the suffering KFC, which is currently featuring a series of Jeremy Lin figurines, one of which features Lin donning glasses and hunched over an open book. 

The figurine is identified in KFC promotional material as the “Brilliant Student Jeremy Lin” (高才生).

Indeed, Jeremy Lin didn’t just rocket to stardom from some obscure university basketball program. In fact, Lin came out of Harvard—arguably the most revered university among academic-minded Chinese families. 

Harvard is such an educational apex that the 2000 book “Harvard Girl” (“哈佛女孩刘亦婷: 素质培养纪实”), which chronicled how one Chengdu family raised a daughter who got into Harvard, was China’s best selling book for 16 months, with many parents snapping it up as a “how to” guide. Many wealthy Chinese parents spend mind-numbing amounts of money to assure a Harvard berth. There was even a high-profile, $2 million lawsuit between a family and an education consultant over the admissions process, and Harvard itself has been accused of limiting admission to Asian students in an attempt to limit overrepresentation of the ethnic group. 

It all adds up to Jeremy Lin—a type of marketing gift that not even the best agency could cook up. And the new KFC China promotion perfectly illustrates that. 


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