2,908 Goals: The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of German Handball Heads Home and a Marketing Opportunity is Squandered

Well, it was back at the 1993 World Championships when I had my first opportunity to see Kyung-Shin Yoon play. And it was an up close and personal opportunity as Team USA battled South Korea for 15th place and an opportunity to avoid the “wooden spoon” (i.e. last place). We did our part to keep the USA’s unblemished record of World Championship futility alive, losing 35-28. After the match, I remember telling my teammates, “That young guy Yoon’s quite a player. You know wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he gets a contract from some Bundesliga club soon. Heck, I’ll go further; barring injury by the time he’s done playing he’ll be the all time scoring leader in Bundesliga history.”

In truth, I don’t remember much of anything from that match other than the annoying little sing song chant the Koreans did on defense after they had scored a goal. But I do remember, thinking, “hey that guy’s pretty tall for a Korean” and surely that was the 19 year old Yoon on his way to future stardom.

And quite a career it has been. In 12 seasons starting with Vfl Gummersbach in 1995 and ending with HSV Hamburg this past Saturday he found the back of the net a record 2,908 times. In 7 of those 12 seasons he also led the league in scoring, including a single season scoring record of 324 in the 2000-2001 campaign. What is even more remarkable is that with his nearly 8 goals/game average he has accomplished this in far fewer matches then most of the other players on the top 10 all time scoring list. Sure, he’s benefited from the fast style of play introduced by Gummersbach and now favored by many teams in the HBL, but he’s also benefited from remarkable consistency and a career that has been relatively injury free.

What’s surprising and somewhat disappointing to me, however, is the lack of celebration or acclaim that surrounds the departure of a player with such a record. Handball is above all else a team sport, but holding the career scoring record in the World’s best professional league is arguably the greatest individual record a handball player can have. Those of us who are old timers remember the retirement of the NBA’s Yoon equivalent, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FCJ/is_4_31/ai_113183440
In poor Kareem’s case his departure was woefully overdone, as for an entire season he and his team were subjected to a pre-game ceremony of retirement gifts from every city in the NBA. The outpouring of recognition was surprising giving Kareem’s stoic and less than animated personality. Still even the most casual fan recognized the significance of the all time scoring leader retiring.

But in Yoon’s case the exact opposite is occurring. The fans at Hamburg did give him a standing ovation as he walked off the court last Saturday, but there were no celebrations a la Jackson Richardson or a special retirement match a la Stefan Kretschmar . I guess in the marketing world tattoos or dreadlocks are often seen as prerequisites. A little flash is needed along with the skill if you’re going to get promoted as a star.

Interestingly enough, in addition to playing handball 3 more years in Korea, the 34 year old Yoon intends to study sports marketing. Here are some questions he might want to consider for a research project:
– What country is 4th worldwide in internet broadband penetration with 29.9% of all households having a broadband connection? ANS: South Korea http://www.oecd.org/document/60/0,3343,en_2649_34223_39574076_1_1_1_1,00.html
– Who is arguably the most accomplished Korean professional athlete ever in his particular chosen sport? ANS: Kyung-Shin Yoon; Handball
– What Handball league has the best overall content for web TV which works best with broadband? ANS: The HBL

So it doesn’t take a marketing genius to see that maybe, just maybe, a unique opportunity to promote handball in Korea was lost. Maybe there is a Korean language HBL page which promoted Hamburg games and it’s Korean star, but I get the sense that Yoon’s notoriety in his native country is minimal. As I’ve mentioned before if you want to grow a sport in a country one of the best ways do it, is by promoting the native son who’s done well abroad. It’s not too difficult to spot the Parker jerseys in France, the Nowitzki jerseys in Germany and the Yao jerseys in China. Perhaps it’s too late for the Yoon HSV Hamburg jerseys in Seoul, but let’s hope that next time around an opportunity like this presents itself the handball world pounces on it.

Kyung-Shin Yoon HBL Player Profile: http://www.toyota-handball-bundesliga.de/handball/spieler.php?menuid=62&topmenu=41&saison=08&vid=1710101107&nr=20

Kyung-Shin Yoon Wikipedia Entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoon_Kyung-shin

Kyung-Shin Yoon Career Statistics
Season Total Goals/7 M Goals
95/96 39
96/97 209/41
97/98 207/53
98/99 228/27
99/00 256/26
00/01 324/76
01/02 263/59
02/03 273/40
03/04 261/85
04/05 221/63
05/06 200/17
06/07 236/88
07/08 188/78

HBL Career Scoring Leaders: http://www.toyota-handball-bundesliga.de/staticsite/staticsite.php?menuid=77&topmenu=61&keepmenu=inactive
HBL Season Scoring Titles: http://www.toyota-handball-bundesliga.de/staticsite/staticsite.php?menuid=81&topmenu=61&keepmenu=inactive