Early in 2013, Hong Kong-based Lenovo Mobile signed a contract with NBA superstar Kobe Bryant to endorse its range of mobile devices. The aim of the deal was to “enhance the Lenovo brand,” particularly within its target region, Southeast Asia, as well as in China itself.
Face of the Franchise
Bryant, who successfully tagged himself with the monicker “Black Mamba” fairly recently, is no stranger to being the face of a franchise. Since being recruited to the Los Angeles Lakers—arguably the NBA’s darling franchise located in one of America’s most illustrious cities—as a rookie out of high school in 1996, Bryant has been a household name.
Just recently, Bryant surpassed Wilt Chamberlain for fourth place in the all-time scoring list of the NBA, and many point out that it’s not impossible for Bryant to vault all the way to number one if he plays until he’s 40. He also has 5 NBA titles on his resume, and he has nothing on his mind but winning at least one more. Achievements are scattered all throughout Bryant’s career in what is arguably the highest-profile professional sports league in the world, from slam-dunk contest wins and MVP plums to scoring titles and multiple championships.
Kobe Bryant is a name associated with the best of the best, with winning, with excellence. Lenovo did well in attaching such a recognized personality to its brand. Nike did the same by taking Bryant at his lowest point—with legal problems and with his team struggling to win—and Bryant’s support of the Seattle-based shoe company arguably revitalized the brand’s line of basketball sneakers. He could certainly prop up Lenovo’s image and sales as well.
Lenovo Stepping Up
As of mid-2012, Lenovo was ranked fourth in tablet shipments, behind Apple, Samsung, and Amazon. The uptick in performance can be attributed to the maturation of low-cost yet high-performance mobile devices it brought to the market, and these products are really strong in regions like Southeast Asia and are gaining interest even in the West. Lenovo is indeed one of the emerging companies in the mobile market, and it might be that people are more likely to purchase cheap stuff from a better-known brand than others like Huawei or ZTE.
According to Bryant, Lenovo’s approach to its business is consistent with his own philosophy of “pursuing excellence” in every endeavor, and he predicts that the company “is going to set itself apart as a technological leader for smartphones across Asia.”
That’s certainly a lofty ideal, but, at the very least, the company continues to provide a diverse range of smartphones and tablets, such as the 5-inch S880 and the 4.5-inch S720, both of which pack an IPS LCD screen, an 8MP camera, and a dual-core processor. Both Android phones are sold in markets like the Philippines for around $240. Making these devices available and accessible in emerging markets is a good way of not only gaining profitability, but also bringing new technology within arm’s reach of people who would rather not spend on ultra-expensive flagship phones or Apple products.
Bryant’s endorsement is a good way to promote and grow the Lenovo Mobile brand, and this is certainly a good match for both parties. It looks like a bold move for the NBA star, and it is certainly beneficial for the tech company. We don’t really know if the Black Mamba actually does use a Lenovo smartphone as his personal or business telephone, or if he even keeps one near his person at all, but hey—the man’s pretty active on Facebook and Twitter with his own updates, so it might not be too farfetched to think that he’s doing a chunk of his social media stuff on these Chinese-made phones.