Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin and his alma mater, Harvard University, are in talks to create a co-licensed merchandise line, two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations said.
The line would be created with Nike Inc., which has Lin as an endorser and which outfits the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based university’s football and basketball teams, said the people, who were granted anonymity because the contracts aren’t signed.
Lin, 24, the first Taiwanese- or Chinese-American to play in the National Basketball Association, became a global sensation last season after taking over as the starting point guard for the New York Knicks. He moved to the Rockets during the offseason on a three-year, $25 million free-agent contract that the Knicks chose not to match.
A Lin-related line would be an economic and brand-building boon to Harvard where, according to the school’s 2010-11 Fact Book, almost 18 percent of the 6,657 undergraduates are of Asian descent, said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.
“Jeremy Lin provides an incredible platform for Harvard in China,” Swangard said in an e-mail. “To millions of Chinese children, the NBA and Harvard are separately ‘aspirational brands’ and Lin is uniquely positioned to align their messages. I predict Lin will become one of the most effective brand-building tools for Harvard in China.”
Harvard spokesman Kevin Galvin declined to comment on any prospective association with Lin. Nike spokesman Brian Strong and Lin’s attorney, Pamela Deese, a partner at the Washington law firm Arent Fox, also declined to comment.
Harvard ranks first among Ivy League schools in merchandise sales, according to online retailer Fanatics.com. Fifteen percent of sales come from outside the U.S., according to Fanatics, which didn’t provide specifics.
Adding Lin already has paid off for the Rockets, who last month signed a three-year marketing agreement with East West Bank, which has branches throughout the U.S. and China.
Lin became a marketing force last season in Asia, where broadcasters tried to add more Knicks games to their schedules. Coca-Cola Co. added advertisements in Chinese to its courtside signs at Madison Square Garden, seeking to capitalize on Asian viewers.
Lin’s rise to a global sensation became known as “Linsanity,” a term the player has moved to trademark. The attention was even credited with helping to settle a price dispute between Madison Square Garden Co. and Time Warner Cable Inc.
Lin had the league’s second-best-selling jersey from April 2011 through April of this year, trailing only 2011 Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, according to the NBA.
The 6-foot-3 Lin averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists last season for the Knicks.
Harvard, the world’s wealthiest college, had an endowment of $30.7 billion in the 12 months through June, the school said.