China’s Tribute to Kobe Bryant – They Aint Haters!


Basketball is the ‘foreign’ sport that has consistently captured the imagination of Chinese youth, there have been many idols, but none bigger than Kobe Bryant.   Chinese ballers are sending him out in style, with this tribute from Nike.

China has a special relationships with Kobe, while Bryant has endured periods of hating, it has always been love from China – his style, fluidity, epic buzzer-beaters and of-the-court global personality have placed him in his own realm of basketball royalty.   Apart from local hero status of Yao Ming, Kobe took up the mantle of Michael Jordan to be one of the Big Three for Chinese ballers.   Video of Kobe slamming over Yao Ming is one of the most viewed clips in China’s internet history.

Here’s the new tribute from Nike.

Why basketball, Why Kobe in China?

Just to recap why is basketball big in China,  here is our SMART summary

  • Lots of concrete in cities, more than grass, so courts popped up quickly
  • Consistent representation of Chinese athletes in the NBA, even before Yao Ming took it to new heights
  • The national team doesn’t suck, unlike the football team
  • Brands have been big advocates of the game, sports brands such as Nike and Li Ning have brought their ambassadors to China, while KFC created a famous series of community 5-a-side tournaments taking the game to the grass-roots
  • Also, basketball is simple, you got a ball, you can ball, and have a ball!

With Bryant’s last game in a glittering career is fast approaching, Nike and Wieden + Kennedy Shanghai have created a tribute commercial with China as the focus.  Speaking to Ad Week about the spot,  Terence Leong, creative director of W+K Shanghai mentioned that “(t)ogether with Nike China and Kobe, our team crafted the script and made sure the film was just as provocative as the man himself. It was an intense and uncompromising process because Kobe was just as demanding on the creative team as he was on the Lakers.”   So the message to China is as important to Kobe as it was to Chinese ballers – now thats love.

At SMART, one of our passions and services to clients, is about how to position celebrities and KOLs correctly for brand messaging.   It is essential for optimal engagement, to create a relevant and unique story around celebrity that messages your brand correctly.

For this we offer our Celebritizer 360™  – to optimize celebrity and KOL investment, so they tell your brand story in the most relevant way.

About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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