Coke Plans Courtside Ads Targeting Lin Fans In China


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New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin went from bench-warmer to basketball superstar in the space of a few months, and global brands are trying to capitalize on the excitement. Coca-Cola now plans to use Lin's popularity to connect with Chinese consumers. Ilya Marritz of WNYC reports.


Major corporations are working to capitalize on the success of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin - his rise fm back-bencher to superstar. This week the carmaker Volvo signed Lin as a spokesman.

And as Ilya Marritz of WNYC reports, Coca-Cola now plans to use Lin's popularity to connect with Chinese consumers.

ILYA MARRITZ, BYLINE: You can think of Coke's campaign as long-distance messaging. Since Jeremy Lin burst onto the scene, he's won legions of fans in China and Taiwan. They love seeing a Chinese-American sink hoops. But because it's in English, a lot of the court-side advertising at Madison Square Garden is lost on them - which got executives at one major Knicks sponsor thinking about the possibilities.

Susan Stribling is a spokesperson for Coca-Cola.

SUSAN STRIBLING: Some of the advertising messaging that we have in the Garden that's currently in English, we're looking to supplement that with similar advertisements that would be translated into Mandarin.

MARRITZ: By early April, Stribling says, you'll see court-side messages in Chinese, probably for Coke's sister brand, Sprite.

Mark O'Brien is an executive with the advertising firm DDB. He's spent years helping multinationals connect with a new generation of consumers in China.

MARK O'BRIEN: For a global marketer like Coca-Cola, you've expanded your audience reach from maybe amounts that are in the millions to amounts that are in the tens to hundreds of millions.

MARRITZ: This isn't the first time a company has effectively put up a billboard halfway around the globe, hoping to get noticed. Japanese companies sometimes advertise at Seattle Mariners games, targeting fans of outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. But with a population 10 times that of Japan, China - and its Jeremy Lin fans - are a much bigger prize.

For NPR News, I'm Ilya Marritz in New York.

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