Fuel Cycle

LaVar Ball’s Market Research Foul

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By Andrew Hahn, SVP of Sales at Fuel Cycle

Lonzo Ball, UCLA college basketball star, made waves when he came out with his own shoe line and priced them at $495. Without an NBA contract in hand, many felt that, not only was the shoe outrageously overpriced—not even Kobe or Lebron ask for more than $250 for their shoes—he was completely out of line for demanding an amount that many of his young fans simply could not afford.

His father, LaVar Ball, clearly lacked market knowledge and understanding of their core consumers. Here are three ways that LaVar Ball could have understood and engaged with his customers and avoided this costly misstep.

Know When The Price Is Right: Price Testing

The backbone of economics refers to how much a product is desired by its buyers. The law of demand states that, if all other factors remain equal, the higher the price of a good, the less demand for that good will be. Well, if I can be like Mike for $210, and like Kobe for $200, I certainly don’t want to be like Ball and pay over $220 for flip flops.

What’s more, LaVar Ball blindly guessed what potential buyers would pay for his product. In a recent interview with ESPN’s Darren Rovell he said, “I figure that’s what the shoe is worth. When you are your own owner you can come up with any price you want.”  The shoe has yet to prove its market profitability.

Ensure The Perfect Launch: In-Home Usage Tests

Proper market research on a basketball shoe launch should take years of on and off the court testing, feedback, and refinement. To this point, no one has tested this shoe and both of LaVar’s two other sons, elite high school prospects, refuse to wear the shoe on the court. So, the Big Baller Brand is hoping the customer will pay 2X for a shoe that has not proven its long-term durability.

Customer Loyalty Is Everything: Brand Loyalty

How do we improve a brands connection to Big Baller Brand loyal customers when you don’t have a long-term following? Until reading this article, most of you have not heard of Lonzo Ball. Even LeBron James, who is without a doubt the greatest “brand” on the court, after Michael Jordan, does not have the audacity to make his trademark shoes unattainable to his diehard fans. Gauging the demand of your shoe typically comes from a time and tested relationship with your brand followers, which is something Ball lacks.

How Could LaVar Have Avoided this Fail?

He could have been a leader in intimacy, engagement, analytics, and execution with a private online community to garner actionable insights. In this community, he could have received feedback to help mitigate risks and adjust his marketing, product, and price point. Instead he instigated a social media hurricane on channels like Instagram.

LaVar Ball is certainly gaining attention, but he is demonstrating that all press is not good press. His arrogance is not only hurting the Big Baller Brand, but is hurting his son’s brand and loyal fans.

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