Report: Nike poised to cash in on Lin - USA TODAY

Nike's short-term investment in Jeremy Lin is poised to pay some long-term dividends for the athletic giant.

The Swoosh had the foresight to sign the 23-year old New York Knicks point guard to a minor deal when he entered the NBA in 2010, the equivalent to a futures bet on a Wall Street stock.

But nearly three weeks ago, the first Taiwanese-American player in the NBA was an afterthought for Nike. He was just one of many sponsored athletes who got free shoes and not much else. He was danger of being cut loose by the Knicks, his third NBA club.

Now, the athletic giant that helped turn Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Tiger Woods into marketing superstars is poised to possibly do the same with the 23-year old undrafted free agent out of Harvard.

As the next chapter in Lin-sanity, Lin could just do it for Nike on Madison Avenue. And become the Swoosh's next big endorsement star.

Nike is reportedly extending its endorsement pact with Lin -- to stop him from being stolen by rival athletic sponsors, according to Beijing Business Today.

Nike's started selling "Linsanity" T-shirts through retailers like Foot Locker. He'll make Nike-affiliated trips to China and Taiwan this summer, chief executive Mark Parker told the Portland Oregonian during a Nike Olympic event in New York on Wednesday. But Nike's playing its marketing cards for Lin close to the vest for now.

"We're proud of the fact that our relationship started two years ago. It's just a great story," Nike president Charlie Denson told Allan Brettman of The Oregonian.

Nike, the world's biggest sneaker marketer, is planning to roll out a Lin shoe, ESPN Radio reported last week. If so, it would probably a player-exclusive shoe similar to what Nike has with Dirk Nowitzki off the Dallas Mavericks, rather than the kind of "signature" shoe it has with LeBron, Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant.

Nike spokesman Brian Strong dismissed photos of an alleged Lin shoe in the Knicks' blue and orange colors circulating around the web as photo-shopped fake. Lin currently plays in Nike Hyperfuse Low kicks.

But Nike won't comment on whether it's planning a player-exclusive Lin shoe -- or some other surprise for NBA All-Star Weekend. "He continues to be a Nike athlete and wear the Hyperfuse Low," Strong says.

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China is the world's most populous country with 1.3 billion people. Nike wants to double its sales in China to $4 billion annually by 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal.

With Yao Ming retired, Lin could quickly become the most famous NBA player in Asia. And the face of Nike's expansion into China and other markets.

So far in his brief career as a Nike endorser, Lin's appeared in training videos that are now getting a ton of traffic on the Web. He also visited two cities in Taiwan last year as part of a Nike-sponsored tour.

24 Feb, 2012

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