By Barry Janoff
April 13, 2016: Nike, 2K, Apple, American Express, BodyArmor, ESPN, the NBA and the Los Angeles Lakers are among the brands, fans, organizations and others activating for what has been unofficially declared "Mamba Day," representing the day of Kobe Bryant's final game in the NBA.
Bryant, who was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets out of Lower Merion (Ardmore, PA) High School as the 13th overall pick in 1996, had his draft rights acquired by theLakers about a week later (in exchange for Vlade Divac), and has been with the team ever since. That covers 20 seasons, 15 playoff appearances, five NBA titles and 18 All-Star Games.
Bryant's on-court achievements have led to a bevy of marketing deals throughout his career, and it is his current partners who have stepped up to honor him on April 13 en route to his last NBA game, against the Utah Jazz.
The NBA today ran full-page celebratory ads in USA Today and The Los Angeles Times, thanking Kobe for his contributions to the game.
In addition, the NBA Store in New York featured commemorative window displays and exclusive merchandise (as well as a discount for fans wearing Kobe gear).
Nike last week broke a multi-media campaign naming April 13 as "Mamba Day," a nod to Bryant's "Black Mamba" nickname. The effort included spots loaded with other athletes — all Nike endorsers — paying verbal respects to Bryant and promising to wear special Mamba Day shoes created by Nike.
The roster crosses sports boundaries and includes Kevin Durant, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Rob Gronkowski, Elena Delle Donne, Rory McIlroy, Rafael Nadal, Russell Wilson, Odell Beckham Jr., Kyrie Irving, Michelle Wie, Richard Sherman, Alex Ovechkin and Neymar Jr.
Nike followed that up with a spot, "The Conductor," in which fans, imitating life, both cheer and berate Bryant, which Bryant manages to turn into an orchestral maneuver in which he conducts the likes of his former coach Phil Jackson, Lakers' president Jeanie Buss, Paul Pierce and Rasheed Wallace.
2K Sports unveiled on April 13 a special-edition cover for its NBA17 Legend video game, featuring Kobe Bryant, complete with a TV spot, "Legends Live On," and other marketing support.
The game is set for release in September. But consumers who preorder have the opportunity to snag such goodies as a limited-edition Kobe poster, Kobe Panini trading cards, a Black Mamba game controller skin; and such digital content as 30,000 Virtual Currency, a MyTEAM Bundle + (includes three packs with guaranteed Kobe limited-use card), Nike Kobe 11 retirement shoes, Kobe No. 8 Mitchell and Ness jersey and a Kobe hoodie. (Details here.)
ESPN, which is broadcasting Bryant's final game, broke on April 13 a spot for SportsCenter, which sees staffers signing a retirement card dedicated to Bryant.
Apple this week launched a spot for Apple TV, starring Bryant and actor Michael B. Jordan, "Father Time."
Nike on April 13 launched a “Black Mamba Pack” eBay auction, featuring a full set of 13 autographed pairs of Kobe shoes. Proceeds benefit The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.
American Express recently hosted a private event for card holders featuring Bryant and former teammates Rick Fox and Robert Horry. Content from the event — an extension of the partner’s “Teammate” platform — is being used on TNT, NBA.com and NBA/AmEx social media channels.
In 2013, Bryant became a significant investor in premium sports drink company BodyArmor, and over the past week has been public about his support for the brand via social media — including Twitter, where he has more than nine million followers — and elsewhere, although he does not actually appear in marketing efforts.
Earlier this year, BodyArmor launched its eighth flavor, Blackout Berry, inspired by Bryant.
Last week, AEG unveiled exclusive limited-edition items to honor Bryant, which included New Era headwear, adidas jerseys and T-shirts, jackets by JH Design Jackets and a pin line from Aminco.
Eight New Era 18K gold black lamb caps were priced at $38,024 each.
Eight diamond-studed cashmere caps were each priced at $24,008.
Lambskin leather jackets with snakeskin leather accents, Swarovski rhinestones, hand-crafted leather logos and a leather collar, cuffs and waistband, limited to 24, are going for $5,824 apiece.
According to Sean Ryan, vp-AEG Merchandise, "An athlete like Kobe Bryant only comes along once in a generation and to celebrate his incredible twenty year career we feel we have really captured it with the over forty five exclusive items available for fans who want to celebrate the history that they have witnessed."
Bryant is offering a section of items on his own Web site, as are the Lakers on their site. The Lakers also held a pre-game FanFest outside Staples Center — which as adorned with giant photos of Bryant — offering tickets to the game and the opportunity to take photos alongside the five NBA championship trophies of which Bryant was involved.
Brands, Stars Celebrate Kobe Career Conclusion
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