By Barry Janoff
August 24, 2013: Technology company Lenovo was an official partner of the NBA from 2006-2012, and now is in its second year of a three-year deal signed in 2012 as the official PC of the NFL, replacing IBM.
But the Beijing-based tech company has not left its hoops ties behind.
This past January, Lenovo signed a multi-year deal with Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers "to launch Lenovo smartphones and tablets and to enhance the Lenovo brand in China and Southeast Asia."
The first activation in the U.S, of that deal has now hit the airwaves via a two-minute spot in which Bryant plays Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano with string accompanists.
Why that song? And what does it have to do with computers and other tech goodies?
Last season, with the Lakers struggling — at one point in January the team lost 10 of its 12 games — Bryant sent out a photo of himself via Twitter playing the piano:
"Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' calms me down when I reach my breaking point," he tweeted.
In the opening segment of the new Lenovo spot, Bryant says, "Lenovo is the fastest-growing mobile brand in the world. They always know how to deliver an incredible performance. And today is no exception. Enjoy the show."
He then plays Moonlight Sonata on the piano with sting accompanists for about a minute and a half. (See the full spot here.)
According to Bryant, he has been playing the piano for about a year and a half. "I learned Moonlight by ear," he tweeted this past January. "[It] reminded me of strength, fragility, joy,love, pain. I learned it for [my wife] Vanessa."
The two-minute "Moonlight Sonata" video was originally posted on Sina NBA, the league's official site in China, as part of Lenovo's K900 launch event. It hit YouTube on Thursday, to coincide with Bryant's 35th birthday the next day (Aug. 23).
The response from fans to Bryant's "Moonlight Sonata" piano-playing video has been mixed. They range from those who admire his playing to those who doubt he is playing. Some even referenced a spot Bryant made for Nike in 2008 in which he is shown jumping over a speeding Aston Martin, which was accomplished using trick photography. (See it here.)
Bryant has had the top-selling NBA jersey in China for the past six years, according to sales figures released by the NBA. He also has the best-selling jersey in Europe and Latin America according to the league's most recent figures.
"I learned 'Moonlight Sonata' by ear. [It] reminded me of strength, fragility, joy,love, pain. I learned it for [my wife] Vanessa."
''We are a company of doers — from engineering cutting-edge technology to putting it in the hands of people to allow them to do amazing things,'' David Roman, svp/CMO for Lenovo, said at the time the company signed Bryant. ''This new partnership epitomizes our brand objective by highlighting how our devices give someone as accomplished an athlete as Kobe Bryant, the tools to do more and to continue inspiring generations of fans around the world to pursue their dreams.''
Lenovo, which has its U.S. headquarters in Morrisville, NC, has also had official sports alliances with the International Olympic Committee and Formula 1 racing.
Bryant earns about $20 million annually from endorsement deals.
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