The "hype" has become a huge driver in popular culture in the modern world. But what exactly is it? Hype, as it has come to mean in the fashion world, is the incentive to acquire items that are "in fashion" or trendy, but who dictates what is trendy at a certain point in time? In America it is celebrities. America loves its celebrities like England loves its royal family. Celebrities can be anyone in the public eye, from social media influencers to actors, comedians, musicians, entrepreneurs, politicians, or even, in the case of BBB, athletes. BBB (or Big Baller Brand) is an ill-fated fashion company owned by LaVar Ball, a businessman, and former pro football player. LaVar's three sons Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo are all gifted athletes, and it is from their buzz on the basketball court that LaVar created Big Baller Brand, creating a line of shoes for each of his sons. the ZO2 (for Lonzo) was released in May 2017, selling for a whopping $499 retail.
The MB1, for LaMelo, was created just months later, with a retail price of $125 (following backlash for the ZO2 price), and finally the G3 Lux for LiAngelo, a retail price of $179. After creating a reality show centered around the Ball brothers and their father, Ball in the Family, the company seemed poised to utilize the hype the brothers received in the sports world and create a basketball shoe empire to rival Nike and Adidas. But it wasn't enough, as BBB shoes did not sell to expectations, and following an F rating from the Better Business Bureau, and an embezzlement scandal with co-founder Alan Foster, the company shut down in early 2020, four years after opening. So what went wrong? What can other aspiring entrepreneurs learn about the collapse of the brand? Well for starters, the hype isn't eternal.
The company banked on not only the hype of the three basketball phenoms and their public statuses but also on the celebrity and spectacle of LaVar Ball, who would continually go on sports talk shows and make very outlandish claims to stir controversy and create buzz around the family name. Some examples are:
LaVar said, "Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one."
LaVar claimed that his son Lonzo Ball (who was still playing for UCLA) was better than Stephen Curry, who had already won an NBA title by the time of his statement.
Claimed his son Lonzo would "only play for the Lakers."
Claimed his son's potential endorsement deals should be "a billion dollars...straight out of the gate."
These, and many other controversial statements, are to build a persona of a father with all the confidence in the world for his sons, but more than that, they prove that you can get a lot of people watching and thinking about your brand if you continually make wild claims without evidence on television. The hype of BBB was built off of the media attention and the assurance of the Ball bros becoming great NBA players, but it just didn't last. Though the trio has found success either professionally or semi-professionally on the court, the brand behind them had glaring flaws, the ZO2 was faulty, by Lonzo's own admission, the customer service was historically bad, and there were legal issues that tainted the name even further. The case proves that not all hype is equal. That it may last for a season, but it must be ever-changing to maintain the attention of the masses. And that ultimately, no matter how much hype you have, you need a way to keep your core base of consumers.
Moving on to Supreme, one of the biggest names in streetwear. Supreme's business model is built on sustaining hype through controlled scarcity. They release a small number of their products at a time, for above-average retail prices, and they are quickly resold by consumers who flip them for much more exorbitant prices. Hype, the desire to be trendy, is what fuels the need to wear Supreme and to own Supreme products. They collaborate constantly, whether, with BAPE, Louis Vuitton, Nike, North Face, you name it, they've worked with them. They've even made collaborated with Oreo.
Their brand is more and more recognizable as having value, only because we've collectively agreed they have value. Just as the value of BBB's sneakers is based on the value and "greatness" of the players they are named after. Supreme, is not accredited as of this writing by the Better Business Bureau, but the reviews on their site are awful, similar to customer service complaints that Big Baller Brand had received. But the fact that one company is sunk and the other is flying high is mind-boggling. Supreme's appeal ultimately, is the resale market. People (affectionately labeled Hypebeasts) race to Supreme's website, buy their products online the second they are released and sell them at a profit. This is the successful model of hype. When your consumers buy your products to profit, and not to keep or enjoy for themselves. And a constant sense of hype or value ensures a constant stream of buyers and re-buyers.
Supreme is hype, and BBB uses hype. This is the difference.
Written by Max Olarinde, @mobeige1 on all social media.
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