Sometimes I’m tempted to introduce myself as the “female” version of Jeremy Lin—after all, we are both (relatively) tall, twenty-something, Christian, Taiwanese-Americans. Unfortunately, this also implies that I am good at basketball, when in reality I count walking to class as “exercise” when my doctor asks if I work out.
But I digress. Jeremy Lin’s story and the Linsanity that followed was a historic moment for Asian-Americans. It was about a year ago when NBA player Jeremy Lin went from being a relative unknown to a household name and cover story of Sports Illustrated magazine. It’ll be something we tell our grandkids about. Heck, even my grandfather knows who he is! I think he secretly hopes that one day I’ll marry Lin and we’ll have tall, semi-athletic kids who like basketball and dipping French fries in chocolate sundaes.
But aside from being the dream son-in-law for Chinese parents, Lin really is a hero for Asian-Americans. I could go on and on about how he has proved to the world that yes, Asians can be cool. And that we can grow over 5’5”.
However, I want to focus on another aspect of Lin’s success that has been surprisingly overlooked—not his super-attractive arms (ha!) or his Youtube channel, but what he has shown us about the Asian-American market. Now I’m no business major, but I think Lin has proved that Asians can be a huge source of profit for America! We may not be the largest minority group, and we might not warrant our own TV channel and awards show à la BET, but with such an influx of immigrants from across the Pacific, you’d think more marketers would take notice. Just last month, the Huffington Post published an article revealing that more Asians are immigrating to California than Latinos (
). According to a Pew Research study last summer (
), Asian-Americans have a median household income of about $66,000 (compared to the national average of $49,800). In other words, Asian-Americans are a growing demographic with money to spare. And yeah, there’s that stereotype of Asians being stingy, but I think Linsanity proved to the world that if something appeals to Asians, we’ll buy it.
During the peak of Linsanity last year, I traveled down to Milwaukee with my family and a bunch of our Taiwanese-American friends to watch the Knicks play the Bucks. We sat way at the top, of course, because we’re still a little too cheap to buy the expensive seats. During the game I was floored by how many Asians were present! The entire top level of the stadium was Asian, most of them decked out in Jeremy Lin gear. My friend’s mom was even proudly toting a Jeremy Lin iPhone case (if I remember correctly, this is the same woman who thought football touchdowns were called “homeruns”). Now I had never been to a NBA game before this, but I think the majority of the Asian audience was just like me. We were drawn by the fact that there was somebody on the court who (more or less) looked like us, thought like us, went through the same difficulties as us…and he was succeeding and the rest of America was taking notice! So we bought tickets. We bought t-shirts. We bought hats and bobbleheads and posters. We called our relatives and friends back in China or Taiwan or wherever and talked about how amazing Lin was, and did you want a #17 Knicks jersey next time I visit? In short, a lot of our attention and money were focused on Linsanity.
I’m not saying that people of other ethnicities did not spend lots of money due to Lin’s success, nor am I saying that Asians only take out their wallets when people of our color are involved. What I’m trying to get across is that we are an untapped demographic, and even though we love hamburgers and football just as much as the next American, it’d be great to have stuff that appeals more to us. So cute Asian stationary in American stores, Asian music CDs in Wal-mart, more Asian celebrities and role models that we can look up to and see on TV and call home about. The occasional athlete or token Asian character on TV shows isn’t enough. It’s already been a year since Linsanity. Consumers get bored easily and something new would be nice (no offense to Lin, of course; I still love him and so does my grandfather). I just hope that American marketers will grab this chance and take advantage of this underappreciated group because the profits they stand to earn could be greater than Linsanity itself. Who knows? I could always use another bobblehead on my dresser.
Photo credits in order of appearance: Sports Illustrated, LA Times