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LeBron James makes deal with Dunkin Donuts in Asia

Executives at Dunkin Donuts are hoping to make China run on Dunkin’ and using Lebron James to help by signing an endorsement deal with the basketball star.

Dunkin’ Brands Inc. said Monday that NBA superstar Lebron James has agreed to promote Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins ice cream in Asia where the company has about a third of its stores.

The company is hoping to cater to the eastern market by creating different savory products for the various countries.

One example of a locally-inspired menu item would be pork donuts in China, and though they may not be palatable to Americans or Europeans, it will certainly show the company’s understanding of the nation’s preferences, where it aims to open another 100 stores in the next two to three years.

James will promote Dunkin’s brands in China, Taiwan, India and South Korea through advertisements, online media and in-store marketing, so he may well be testing out the new pork donuts while on promotional visits.

‘Donuts are a very flexible product. You can do savory donuts, you can do donuts with shredded pork — that’s in China,’ said CEO Nigel Travis.

‘We also have a range of other savory products that we have been testing and introducing country by country.’

Getting the menu right in each market is critical. Pork donuts, for example, are not likely to sell well in Indonesia and Malaysia, where people are predominantly Muslim.

James will also make personal appearances in Asia after the season ends in June, which is sure to increase profits for the company as the 27-year-old is very popular in the region.

Dunkin’ executive John Costello would not elaborate on the specific terms of the deal, but said it was multiyear and worth multimillions of dollars.

‘I’m really excited about partnering with Dunkin’ Brands and connecting with the huge community of basketball fans’ in Asia, James said in a statement.

James, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, has the best-selling basketball jersey and shoe in China and has visited Asia four times.

This endorsement deal comes on top of a number of others that help James earn between $25million and $30million per year. Fast food has been profitable for the player in the past, as he has a long-term contract with McDonalds already underway, as well as other food and drink deals with Sprite, Glacéau and Bubblicious.

China is the NBA’s second-biggest market after the U.S., and NBA players often visit Asia on behalf of shoe companies or other sponsors during the offseason.

Dunkin’ is hoping James’ popularity will help boost sales in a region where it has about 5,400 stores, or about a third of its global total.

The company plans to add at least 250 stores in Asia during the next two to three years- 100 of which are expected to be in China, chief executive Nigel Travis said.

Dunkin’ opened its first restaurant in Vietnam in December and plans to open its inaugural store in India later this year, Mr Travis said. South Korea has the most Dunkin’ stores in Asia with about 1,900 while Japan has 1,087 – all Baskin-Robbins.

The James deal ‘is Asia focused and reflects our commitment to Asia,’ Mr Travis told reporters in Singapore.

‘Lebron has a strong commitment to building his relationship in Asia so he’s definitely planning multiple trips to Asia in the offseason this year.’

The popularity of basketball in Asia has grown during the last decade, in part because of former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming of China, who retired last year.

New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin has become an overnight sensation in Asia, especially in China and Taiwan. Lin, whose parents were born in Taiwan, is the first Asia-American player in the NBA.

Mr Costello said Dunkin is happy to have snagged James, who has been an All-Star for eight seasons.

Lin ‘certainly is an exciting new player with 20 games to his history,’ said Mr Costello, who is Dunkin’s chief global marketing and innovation officer.

‘But Lebron James has had a fabulous nine years. We think the excitement around Jeremy Lin will actually create more awareness in Asia.’

James, 27, is in his ninth NBA season since turning professional straight out of high school. His team, the Miami Heat, lost in last year’s finals to the Dallas Mavericks.

Arlene Culpepper, Asst. Editor-in-Chief
Arlene Culpepper, Asst. Editor-in-Chief
Vice-President & Asst. Editor-in-Chief of The Heat Magazine, Arlene is a Louisiana native, Certified Paralegal, Publicist, Owner of MIKODreamz PR, co-owner of 504Diffusion, writer, producer, and jack of all trades, who is heavily involved in her community as well as serving as Media Advisor for New Orleans Union for Entertainment (NOUE), Member of the NOLA Music Awards from 2012-present & Member of the Press Club of New Orleans. Her work is published across the web. Her PR work has been highly recognized & awarded. She was/is publicist for the late great BTY YoungN, 0017th and more. She is also working on her first novel & aspires to turn it into a film & is currently writing the authorized biography of the legendary Pimp C of UGK. She can be reached via email at Follow her on Twitter - @CategorySeven & Instagram - @hurricanearlene.


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