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BLOG: LaVar Ball is riding Donald Trump's media model to success

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Posted at 12:50 PM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-09 15:50:33-04

Among the reasons cited for Donald Trump's ascension to the presidency is the amount of free media he generated from the beginning to the end of his 17-month campaign.

Whether it was his unorthodox campaign rallies, ear-catching sound bytes, provocative tweets or a combination thereof, Trump was able to garner nearly $5 billion in television, print, radio and internet media during his campaign -- more than opponents Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio combined.

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Sure, much of that press was negative -- but good or bad, it kept people talking about the Trump campaign, as opposed to the campaigns of his competitors, and that proved to be a net positive for the eventual 45th President of the United States.

Whether it's intentional or not, LaVar Ball has used that same model to begin to grow his Big Baller Brand into an online empire.

Ball, whose three teenage sons are very good at basketball and will likely all play in the NBA, is riding one wave of controversy after another to monetize his kids' talents. Most recently, he introduced footwear featuring his oldest son and soon-to-be NBA lottery pick Lonzo Ball, all at astronomical price points.

The "ZO2 Prime," which has received the most media attention, is priced at $495, while the "ZO2 Wet" (which includes its own LED case) is going for $995-$1195, and the "Signature Slides" flip-flops are priced at $220.

The cost of the footwear was met with scorn on social media, including from Shaquille O'Neal, who has reportedly sold over 120 million pairs of far more affordable sneakers through Walmart.

But by putting an outrageous price tag on the ZO2s -- a price that dwarfs the cost of retro Air Jordans, as one Cardinals receiver noted -- along with his provocative statements about some of the world's top footwear companies -- Ball accomplished something he wouldn't have been able to do otherwise: He's earned himself millions of dollars in free media.

"Some believe that Ball simply used the outlandish price point to create the estimated $50 million worth of free media advertising he received based on response to the price tag," basketball writer Jamal Murphy wrote Monday.

Yes, Big Baller Brand's footwear has received an absurd $50 million in free advertising in less than a week. And that number doesn't include the free media given to LaVar by ESPN and other outlets in the months prior to the unveiling of the shoes.

As of Monday, fewer than 300 pairs of ZO2 Primes were reportedly sold. That may sound like a marketing failure until you consider: 1. 300 pairs of shoes at $495 per unit is still roughly $150,000, 2. Ball didn't have to spend a dime on advertising to make that happen.

Along with the premium price points, Ball continues to use controversial statements to generate additional media attention, such as his assertion Monday that Big Baller Brand is on a higher level than Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.

Lonzo Ball has yet to play an NBA game, and his younger brothers are still in high school. But their father is already raking in the dough by riding the same train Trump rode all the way to the presidency.

You can call LaVar Ball crazy, or a genius. You can call him greedy, or a shrewd businessman. But if he continues to generate Trump-like levels of media attention, you can soon call him something our 45th president has been called for decades: a tycoon.