Big Baller Brand: Game Changing Vision...Wrong Execution.

Big Baller Brand: Game Changing Vision...Wrong Execution.

There was a time 3 years ago the Ball family was gracing the storylines of various sports tv networks and online publications. You would have Lavar Ball, leading the charge making bullish statements about his sons, Lonzo, LaMelo, and LiAngelo or him saying he could beat Michaal Jordan 1 on 1.

The youngest of the 3 brothers, LaMelo, has just recently signed a 5 year endorsement deal with PUMA on Friday. The financial details weren’t disclosed, but the deal includes a signature shoe deal. This is something not all top prospects are rewarded as they enter the league.

PUMA has made a resurgence in their basketball division. They have a solid roster of athletes in their portfolio such as Skylar Diggins-Smith, Michael Porter Jr, and RJ Barrett. They have also added celebrities such as J. Cole, and soccer superstar, Neymar.

With LaMelo signing with PUMA, it makes you wonder what went down with the Ball family brand, ‘Big Baller Brand.’

The rise and fall of Big Baller Brand is unbelievable. It began with a self-proclaimed billion dollar valuation, to mark it’s merchandise 90%. The brand has had a rocky 4-year run.

Big Baller had an opportunity to revolutionize how future athletes would approach marketing themselves moving forward. They presented a path to an unchartered territory no athlete has ever done. They had everything right in front of them, but poor execution was the reason for their demise.  Let’s go through a timeline of how everything unfolded. 

April, 2016 - Big Baller Brand is Founded.

LaVar Ball officially launched the Big Baller Brand website in early 2016. Their mission statement:

“We are proud to announce the soft launch of Big Baller Brand as of June 2016.

It is both an honor and a privilege to bring this family-oriented and -created brand to the public. Now you too can celebrate the athleticism and discipline it truly takes to become a 'Ball' player. Join our community of basketball and sports lovers, as well as 'Ball brother' fans by purchasing our one and only Big Baller shirts or apparel. You won't regret it."

March, 2017: LaVar asks for $1 Billion Dollars.

At this point, Big Baller Brand was only manufacturing, marketing, and selling apparel. LaVar has become popular on television and social media taking the world by storm. During his run with the press, he’s asked what it would take to get all of the 3 ball brothers to one brand, he replied:

"A billion dollars, it has to be there," Ball told USA Today. "That’s our number, a billion, straight out of the gate. And you don’t even have to give it to me all up front. Give us $100 mil over 10 years."

Nike responded to this saying LaVar the “worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years.”

 

May, 2017: Lonzo Ball Unveils His Signature Shoe.

After being denied a co-branding partnership with Nike, LaVar and Lonzo Ball announced their first signature Big Baller Brand shoe - The ZO2 priced at $495!

LaVar was asked why the sneakers were priced so high. The top tier basketball shoes of NBA superstars in the market rarely cross the $200 price point. LaVar responded in the most LaVar way possible:

“That’s what the shoe is worth”

To add more to it, the shoes did not come with returns, refunds, or exchanges. Social media had a field day with it. 

August, 2017: Jay-Z endorses LaVar Ball and Big Baller Brand.

Jay-Z was on the rap radar podcast, and he shared his support for the Big Baller Brand vision:

"LaVar Ball said 'I'm going to start my own company.'"

"Now he may go about things wrong. He may have a big mouth ... but I bought three pairs. I didn't get them, but that man has a vision of his own. Why wouldn't I support him?

He feels like he can move culture and his son got a big enough name and big enough brand that they can do it. Nike had to start somewhere. Why do we get so upset when we, us as a culture, want to start our own shit? That shit is puzzling to me."

 

August 2017: LaMelo Becomes The First High School Athlete With His Own Signature Shoe.

With the high endorsement from Jay-Z, the family went all in and made LaMelo Ball the first high school athlete ever to have his own signature basketball shoes. The ‘MB1’, which was priced $100 cheaper than Lonzo’s shoe at $395. 

January, 2018: The Better Business Bureau Call Out Big Baller Brand.

 Orders and delivery times were stretched into weeks and even months. After not receiving product or hearing anything from the brand, customers began flooding the brand’s Better Business Bureau with negative reviews.

Lavar was asked about the “F” rating and he said he thought the “Better Business Bureau was out of business” and that “Yelp! Is more important.”

He goes on to say:

"It's probably Nike and Adidas complaining about not getting their Big Baller Brand merchandise." — LaVar Ball

March, 2019: Lonzo’s Money Goes Missing.

Things were already going bad, but they got much worse in March 2019.

Lonzo Ball parted ways with Alan Foster, their business manager and the co-founder of the Big Baller Brand. He allegedly embezzled $1.5M from Ball’s personal and business accounts.

Lonzo filed a lawsuit against Foster which is still ongoing. Foster is also being investigated by the FBI for fraud against multiple other business entities including the Big Baller Brand.

March, 2019: Lonzo Ball Covers Up his “BBB” Tattoo.

After dealing with shoes that aren’t ready to be played in, inadequate company logistics, customer complaints, and over $1.5 million in missing money, Lonzo was fed up with all the antics.

In March 2019, Ball covered up his tattoo signifying the end of his relationship with Big Baller Brand.

July, 2019: The Brand Goes on Discount.

After years of disappointment, LaVar Ball took his excess inventory and proceeded to go to work to sell it all - at a local high school volleyball tournament.

The lack of financial footing was signalled when they sold their merchandise and apparel at a 90% discount. 

September, 2019: Lonzo Slams His Shoes.

Lonzo admitted in September that his original shoe, the ‘ZO2’s’ were defective. The Lakers asked Lonzo to stop wearing the shoes early in rookie season due to frequent injuries that were occurring.

As of today, the Big Baller Brand website is still active.

They continue to sell their $100 Bucket Hats and a wide-range of $195 shoes, but with LaMelo Ball signing a 5-year deal with Puma and Lonzo exploring footwear options with Nike, the business appears to be dead.

Takeaway: It’s unfortunate how things went down with the Ball family. No athlete ever had ever done what they were trying to do. Coming to the league with your own brand, and own shoe is a precedent move that needs to be applauded. The courage and the confidence to initially come in and bet on yourself is something all athletes should be doing. Imagine if LeBron came into the league and owned 100% of his own brand instead of endorsing Nike. The amount of money he would have is stupendous. The future value of his brand would be worth billions. 

The majority of this breakdown, including the timeline and relevant quotes, was directly sourced from a much longer and detailed Complex Sports article — you can check it out here.

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