3 Marketing Lessons I Discovered at the NBA Summer League


Anyone who knows me (or anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog) knows… I’m an NBA NUT!

Few things tickle my fancy as much as pro hoops. (Probably only my wife + son and Rock’n’Roll beat out the NBA.)

And when It comes to my NBA bucket lists, I’ve checked off quite a few items…

== > I’ve been to a ton of pro games (once even caught a Blazers’ season open whilst on vacation – just walked up a scalped a pair of tix – niiiiiiiiice!)
== > Sat on the floor at a Lakers game (not gonna say me + Denzel are “boys” or anything, but I was close enough to beam him in the head with popcorn kernel if I’d so chosen)

The only other NBA bucket list items I haven’t checked off yet?

== > See my “home team” (the Detroit Pistons!) in a playoff finals game
== > Attending an Allstar game (And next time Allstar visits LA, if I’m still here, I’m THERE!)
== > Attending NBA Summer League…
Oops, wait!

I checked that item off my list this past weekend!!!

Thanks to fortuitous good timing – Wifey + Junior were out of town visiting family, I had a United Airlines flight voucher, and Summer League is held in Lost Wages, I mean, Las Vegas, which is only 45-minute flight from my current digs in Los Angeles – I saw my first NBA Summer League live + in person!

It was whirlwind jaunt… Flew in Saturday afternoon and hopped a flight out at 7am the next morning.

But despite the quick turnaround, it was, in a word, AWESOME!

Most importantly, I can “CHECK” attending the NBA Summer League OFF my NBA bucket list!

But it wasn’t ALL play….

In fact, glean three SOLID marketing that directly applies to growing your business…

Marquee Product (Similar to a Niche) Makes a BIG Difference

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most notable + beloved teams in NBA history. This storied + highly successful franchise, however, has been on the skids of late… Despite winning five championships over the past two decades, they’ve failed to make the playoffs three years in a row. Moreover, they weren’t even close. The famed purple and gold have been dwelling at the bottom of the rankings, among the league’s worst teams.

This year, however, the Lakers owned a high draft pick. And they spent it on a highly-touted college prospect – SoCal native and UCLA alum, Lonzo Ball.

Thus far, Lonzo has lived up to the hype. He’s recorded two triple doubles (10 or more points, assists + rebounds). And led the Lakers Summer League team to the Summer League championship.

The net effect at this year’s Summer League? An average of 16,000+ attendees have PACKED the Thomas and Mack Center, home of Summer League play, throughout the two-week event. This includes many Lakers fans + NBA nuts hoping to catch a glance at a potentially transcendent player.

In short, a Marquee product (Lonzo Ball) has DRIVEN up Summer League attendance – big time!

The Small Business Marketing Takeaway… A Marquee product doesn’t have to be a “product” at all. It can be a service. And when your service stands head + shoulders above your competitors, or when you service a previously unsupported niche, clients will FLOCK to your biz!

In other words…

== > Do the VERY best job possible, always taking care to put your client’s needs FIRST!
== > Hone your niche to ensure you’re supporting an under-served or untapped segment of your marketplace, making your biz the Marquee Product

And your pipeline will NEVER run dry!

Strategic Partnerships Can SERIOUSLY BOOST Your Biz

Ever heard of the Thomas & Mack Center (before I mentioned it above)? It’s the home of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels basketball team.

Now, considering that UNLV basketball was HUGE while I was growing up, with the Rebs winning a National Championship under infamous coach, Jerry “Tark the Shark” Tarkanian… And given what a basketball nut I am, you’d think I’d be familiar with the arena, right?

But nope. I’d never heard of the Thomas & Mack Center until the NBA began hosting Summer League there a little over a decade ago.

In the meantime, well-publicized Summer League games are also played at Cox Pavilion (the Fieldhouse attached to Thomas & Mack + named for cable giant, Cox Communications), and the MGM Grand Hotel + Casino. In fact, the MGM is a Summer League co-sponsor (the event is billed as the “MGM Grand’s NBA Summer League”).

In short, these organizations are heaping up some high-profile brand recognition! Thanks in no small part to very savvy strategic partnerships.

Small Business Marketing Takeaway… Strategic partnerships can lead to big wins for small businesses, too!

Quick Case Study

A client of mine is a small, family-owned commercial real estate firm that focuses exclusively on retail shopping center property management and leasing. And by “shopping centers,” I’m talkin’ corner strip centers anchored by a 7-Eleven or similar retailer, along with a couple of takeout restaurant + nail salon or cell phone sales type stores as co-tenants.

Marcus & Millichap is giant, national commercial real estate sales and investment firm. But guess what they don’t do? Manage or lease strip center-type properties. They broker the sale of a whole lot of ‘em. But they don’t lease or manage any.

Marcus & Millichap agents cold calling on sales prospects discovered something very interesting. Many landlords they spoke with weren’t interested in selling, but desperately needed management and leasing services.

Opportunity knocks… The small firm partnered with Marcus & Millichap’s Southern California regional operations to establish an “alliance.” M&M sales agents referred landlord’s in need of management and leasing to my client. In return, the M&M agents received a referral from my client, and gained credibility with the landlord, in many cases earning the referring agent the opportunity to eventually sell the property.

The “alliance,” in place for nearly a decade, has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for both companies.

Your Brand SPEAKS Volumes

So, here’s a relevant NBA Summer League question. How good is the quality of play? Well, that question is best answered with another question. Who plays in Summer League?

1. Incoming rookies, meaning players just drafted out of college, who’ve NEVER played in the NBA.
2. First and second year NBA player.

And what does that look like performance-wise? I heard a fellow spectator in the row behind me quip to a friend… “This is like a fast pickup game at 24 [Hour Fitness].”

Now, it wasn’t QUITE that bad. There were lots of furious fast breaks, soaring slam dunks, and astonishing long bomb 3-point swishes.

But the games certainly didn’t have the flow, fluidity or stylized grace of typical NBA game.

Guess what, though? Didn’t matter a lick to the 16,000+ fans in attendance. Summer League is an NBA affair. And it smacks of all the trappings of an NBA event…

The NBA logo was plastered on the floor at center court. Current and future NBA players were executing amazing plays and racking up stunning highlights. And Lonzo Ball, a highly touted young rookie, was scoring triple doubles.

That’s about as NBA as it gets (outside of an actual NBA arena).

The Small Business Takeaway… Build your brand, and the clients will come.

In other words, if you put in the work from the word go and…

== > Always strive to do the best job possible…
== > Focus on providing customer-centric service…
== >And consistently market your business, highlighting not only your expertise + experience, but also your business’s unique personality…

You’ll keep you pipeline full of quality prospects, which put you in the highly enviable position of picking a choosing the clients you decide to work with.

In What Unlikely Spots Have You Learned Valuable Marketing Lessons?

I’ve shared more than a few marketing lessons garnered in unexpected locales on this blog… So how about you return the favor? Swing by my Google+ page and spill the beans on some of your biggest marketing “a-ha!” moments!