LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Any Los Angeles resident driving into downtown L.A. — including myself — had to deal with some extra traffic yesterday. That wasn’t due to rush hour or accidents, it all had to do with Kobe Bryant. The world watched Kobe drop 60 points on 50 shots last night, but the festivities started much earlier. Throughout the day sponsors — and Kobe — were able to leverage Bryant’s final game in creative business ways that didn’t seem forced.
The day started with Nike activating around the Nike Vault at L.A. Live. The experiential marketing was mainly focused around raffling off limited edition Fade to Black Kobe signature shoes. The Kobe I was all white, while the Kobe XI was all black everything in between was a transition from the color of the I version to the XI version. The line wrapped around the Nike Vault.
People were ushered into a waiting area where the shoes were raffled off. Nike also was giving away posters and encouraging people to go into the Nike Vault. L.A. Live also benefited from a crowd waiting around until tip-off.
Nike also leveraged it social media prowess through its use of #MambaDay on social media. It was on Facebook and Twitter. #MambaDay had its own filter on Snapchat with the Nike swoosh visible at the top of the filter. Everything was focused on Kobe’s last game.
The Lakers also focused their marketing around Kobe, which is pretty obvious. Bryant signage was all over the Staples Center. This was the entrance to L.A. Live at Figueroa and Chick Hearn Court.
Not enough Mamba for you? This was in the courtyard right near the statues of L.A. sports greats.
But business didn’t end there. After hitting the game winning shot and scoring 60 points in his final NBA game, Bryant gave a heartfelt speech to Lakers fans. At the end, he finished with a “Mamba out,” which seemed like a fitting ending. In reality it was some slick marketing by Bryant. Almost immediately after he ended his speech with Mamba Out, he was selling shirts on his website.
In the end everyone won. Nike did a great job with its marketing and branding. Kobe continued on as a businessman, and the Lakers won with 60 points from Bryant.
It was a perfect way to go out for both Bryant, and his business partners.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.