In life timing is everything, and for the Indiana Pacers’ Lance Stephenson, the timing for his breakout game couldn’t have been any better. The Brooklyn, New York native, who has had an up and down few years in the NBA, rose to the occasion in the national spotlight Saturday night, helping key a second half rally and lifting Indiana over the New York Knicks, moving them into the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat.
For brand marketers, if he continues his solid play, his rise from the ashes story seems to be a great one to get hold of. Hard working, he came from the streets of Brooklyn and legendary Abraham Lincoln High School, had a brief career at The University of Cincinnati before becoming a second round pick of the Pacers, struggling through his rookie season before finding a role as a steady defender and team player in Frank Vogel’s surprising success story. All of that buildup led to his 24 point effort on Saturday against non-other than his hometown team, sending the glitzy Knicks home while the smaller market Pacers move ahead.
“As brand marketers everyone loves the comeback kid, the underdog that roses up, and if someone like Lance Stephenson can answer the call, especially with his New York roots, he could be a real winner if the Pacers continue to excel, not just in the Playoffs but into the offseason,” said Chris Lencheski, CEO of Philadelphia based Front Row Marketing Services and an industry sales veteran. “It seems like he has done all the things we look for in identifying potential stars, and if he can stay healthy, stay smart, and stay socially and community conscious he certainly has a chance.”
One of those comeback brands that already rolled the dice on Stephenson is the AND1 shoe and apparel brand. AND1, once known as the “IT” brand in basketball circles, still has a legendary following in the hip hop and grassroots basketball world, and has undertaken a large repositioning in the last few months under new ownership. Stephenson’s playoff success, amidst mega-brands like Nike and adidas, could significantly help AND1 as it makes its own resurgence, one mirroring the rise of its now very hot endorser from Brooklyn. The sneaker brand launched its own viral campaign on Facebook. “Lance’s Locker room,” right around the start of the conference semi-finals, so timing for AND1, just like for a young star coming of age, could not be better.
What else could be in the offing should Stephenson continue? “It’s hard to say because that’s a personal decision he has to make, and brands take a while to see if athletes are worth the spend,” Lencheski added. “However he seems to have the ability to be fiery without being flashy, he says the right things and he is surrounded by an organization, Larry Bird drafted him and Donnie Walsh now runs the show, that knows how to reward loyalty and take care of their own, so even regional deals as well as some back in Brooklyn, can be a nice payoff in addition to his sneaker and apparel deal with AND1 which seems like the best fit of all.”
For Lance Stephenson, his timing may have never been better, on or off the court.