NBA superstar Kobe Bryant teams up with Alibaba in new China venture
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group has struck a wide-ranging deal with a new start-up founded by basketball superstar Kobe Bryant.
Bryant's first project with Alibaba involves the exclusive release in mainland China of his self-produced video documentary, Kobe Bryant's Muse, on August 8 through the Chinese firm's Tmall Magic Box, a widely used digital home entertainment system in the country.
“Kobe is an innovative entrepreneur who has established a legacy that extends far beyond the basketball court, and is someone who can bring positive impact to the players and fans of basketball in China," Jack Ma Yun, Alibaba's lead founder and executive chairman, said on Monday.
Alibaba's Hong Kong-listed affiliate, Alibaba Pictures, will also collaborate with Bryant in developing the athlete's branded products and distribute these through the group's online retail platforms Tmall.com and Taobao Marketplace, which have more than 350 million combined active buyers throughout the country.
Bryant, who is expected to play his final season from October with the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association (NBA), set up his sports-focused company Kobe Inc in 2013.
"We want to own and help grow brands and ideas that challenge and redefine the sports industry while inspiring," Bryant said in an interview with ESPN.com in March last year.
"If it doesn't have the limbs of the sports industry, which I understand extremely well, then I probably won't touch it."
Alibaba and online media group Sina will collaborate with Bryant's company to create a new social media platform for the US basketball icon. Bryant has more than three million followers on Sina Weibo.
That initiative will form part of Alibaba and Sina's efforts to establish establish a "Star, Media, Platform" business model of collaboration with select "inspirational figures" for Chinese youngsters.
"My dream is that others are inspired by my personal story and create epic life stories of their own," Bryant said.
Kobe Bryant’s Muse, in which the famous professional basketball player shares his philosophies about life and his career, will be available for viewing at Tmall Magic Box for 8 yuan (US$1.29).
"As Kobe Inc looks to expand in China, the partnership with Alibaba Group and Sina will help us reach a vast number of Chinese youth who are looking to reach their full potential and be inspired by others," Kobe Inc president Andrea Fairchild said.
Bryant visited Alibaba's headquarters in Hangzhou in 2009, where he shared a stage with Ma during an event for businesses hosted by the e-commerce firm.
"We just hit it off," said Bryant, who at 1.98 metres, towered over 1.52 metre tall Ma.
Both Ma and Bryant said competition in their respective fields had only made their teams stronger, whether they lost or won.
"Business should be about having fun, just like playing basketball," Ma said at the 2009 event.
But not every endeavour in mainland China with a professional basketball player from the US has resulted in good results.
Last month, a social media gaffe overshadowed NBA star and Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade's Chinese tour after sponsor and sportswear maker Li-Ning posted a map of China showing his planned route which did not include Tibet, forcing company founder Li Ning to issue a personal apology.