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Harlam Globetrotters, A Brand and A Basketball

April 20, 2010

We went and saw the Harlem Globetrotters with close friends recently.  Wow!  What a great show.

I had seen them once as a kid, one of the major outings that I had as a child.  There were lots of fun then and they still are now.  They are good family fun and absolutely are rated F for family.

In fact, when I started to think about them, I realized what an amazing brand they are.  They have endured a very long time with an untarnished, accessible and totally successful brand.  And, what I realized while being at the game, or maybe event is a better word, is that they weren’t just putting on a show for today.  They were building an audience for tomorrow.  They were creating a legion of marketing representatives by doing what they do so very well. 

Here’s what I really liked.  They were accessible in so many different ways.  Their humour was easy on everyone.  But, more importantly, they priced their event (seats from $20 to $180 ) so that eveyone could attend.  And, of course, they had many kids there who were sponsored by groups. 

But, they left one of the most lasting impressions for last.  After the show was done, they invited people to come down and meet the players and get their autographs.  But, they also had merchandise available.  Specifically, the item that was being sold in astounding numbers were Harlem Globetrotter basketballs.  At first, my friends and I were hesitant to even think of getting one.  We thought they must be quite expensive as they were branded and were really nice balls.  But, we found out that they were only $25.  Amazing!  Why amazing?  Because, they were offering a great product for a reasonable cost (basically you couldn’t get something of the same quality for any less even without the branding).  Also, they had priced it so that most families could afford a ball for their kids.  They were offering something that was actually going to support exercise and play amongst the kids.  And, finally, the most brilliant part is how they were creating a viral brand.  Today, we talk about viral brands being on the internet, maybe a video or something like that.  Not in this case, they have balls going to hundreds of homes after each show.  What a brilliant way to create a following, not just now but for years and decades to come.

And, the image that will stay with me for a long time was the faces of the people in the Starbucks just outside the auditorium whose jaws were dropping and who were smiling from ear to ear as they saw all these kids walking down the sidewalk bouncing red, white and blue balls.  Now, that’s a brand!

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  1. Harlam globetrotters | Janelleandaj | June 13, 2011