SBD/February 1, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Shanghai Surprise: Kobe Looks To Spread Chinese Culture To U.S. Youth

Kobe's charitable foundation helps fund the After-School All-Stars
Lakers G Kobe Bryant is taking his “affection for China -- and its goodwill toward him -- to cast himself as a bridge between East and West through a campaign of philanthropic contributions, promotional activities and cross-cultural exchanges,” according to Jacob Adelman of the AP. Bryant's charitable foundation helps fund the After-School All-Stars, which "includes Mandarin language lessons, Chinese cooking courses and martial arts classes.” He also “makes occasional visits to the basketball courts” of participating middle schools. Bryant's “fondness for China has been reciprocated." His is the NBA’s top-selling jersey in China, and “millions of Chinese viewers tuned in to the reality show ‘Kobe's Disciples,’ which aired on that country's most popular TV station.” Adelman notes “stoking Kobe-mania is a big part” of the NBA's business plan, as he was “featured prominently” in the NBA-sponsored installation at the ‘10 Shanghai Expo's USA Pavilion. Nike has also been “both an enabler and beneficiary of Bryant's success over the Pacific.” The company “uses his image widely in its Chinese advertisements and at its retail stores.” Nike this week “paid for 10 Chinese middle-school students to visit the United States, where they joined After-School All-Stars participants.” Nike spokesperson Jacie Prieto-Lopez said that the company's relationship with Bryant “gives them an instant connection to China's massive population of basketball fans” (AP, 2/1).

NEXT STEP, HOLLYWOOD? In L.A., Nathan Olivarez-Giles reported filmmaker Robert Rodriguez has made a six-minute film starring Bryant and sponsored by Nike titled "The Black Mamba." Singer Kanye West and actor Bruce Willis also make appearances -- West “plays a villain known as the Boss, with Willis as his henchman.” West's "Boss wants Bryant's shoes.” Olivarez-Giles wrote, “In typical over-the-top Rodriguez style, Bryant ends up playing a game of basketball against Danny Trejo and a mutant-like defense, on top of a skyscraper in downtown L.A.” Bryant said that the film will “air on TV during the NBA All-Star break” (LATIMES.com, 1/31).
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