Newly retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant is jumping right into retirement, spearheading a promotional campaign for a Chinese food delivery service called Ele.me.
The former Los Angeles Laker stars in a new commercial for the company. In the ad, a very hungry Kobe attempts to play through a ping pong match that he is performing miserably in. As his insatiable hunger slowly starts to overcome his ability to continue to play, a stroke of genius hits him. Bryant calls up Ele.me for a quick bite. After satisfying his appetite, Kobe goes Mamba, thrashing his opponent without mercy.
The commercial has left some perplexed, wondering why the global icon chose to endorse this relatively new company. One of China’s leading food delivery sites, Ele.me has even faced some backlash in past for working with unlicensed restaurants, reports Hypebeast.
But it’s certainly a huge win for the Chinese delivery company. As the dominant and most distinctive talent of an era in which NBA games were starting to be shown more and more in China, Kobe has long been China’s favorite foreign star. Young ballers across the country lace up his sneakers, wear his jersey and clank his signature shots (Kobe!). Workers were even excused from work earlier this year to catch his historic final game.
Kobe has always cultivated close ties with his Chinese fans, making at least one trip to the mainland each year. Each visit draws out hundreds of thousands of frenzied fans trying to get a glimpse of their legend. He’s been known to drive grown men to tears and was spotted last month going to dinner with Jackie Chan.
He is also always interested in constantly expanding his brand in China, even opening his own Taobao store last year and reportedly learning some Mandarin to better interact with his customers. He also has this statue in Guangzhou.
Ele.me — whose Chinese name (饿了么) translates to “Are You Hungry?” — received a $1.25 billion investment from Alibaba earlier this year. Bryant has been in cahoots with Alibaba recently, as they prepare to launch a line of Kobe-branded products, reports AdAge.
It goes without saying that Kobe made a pretty penny filming the commercial. “Kobe’s worth the money spent, no matter how much,” Tomaz Mok, chairman of McCann Worldgroup China, told AdAge. While Mok isn’t sure just how much Bryant raked in for playing ping pong, we can assume that the Black Mamba did pretty well for himself.
Watch the commercial below:
By Robin Winship