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Kobe Bryant’s impact on advertising in Super Bowl LIV and beyond

Super Bowl advertisers faced an incredibly heavy burden this year, with very little time to cope with it. Seven days before one of the biggest American television events of the year, advertisers were hit with the unbelievable news of NBA champion and sports icon Kobe Bryant’s premature death.

2020’s Unforeseen Super Bowl Challenge

Advertisers endure the same pressure as Super Bowl contenders, if not more. They must create a spot that (1) captures the attention of over 100 million people and (2) delivers sales to offset their $5 million-plus investment. We’re stressed just thinking about it.

Kobe Bryant’s death left advertisers with the responsibility of commemorating the NBA legend with poise. Brands had to be mindful and respectful toward a sensitive audience. That meant editing potentially insensitive scenes, revamping their initial strategy or paying an impeccable tribute – all within the eleventh hour.

Super Bowl LIV was full of emotional Kobe Bryant tributes that met the sports world’s expectations. Advertisers played it safe out of sensitivity to the tragedy. A moment of silence and video board tribute began the night at Hard Rock Stadium, eliciting both tears and applause. Kobe and his family received several other nods throughout the night.

Bryant’s Impact on the Advertising World

As the world mourns the death of an American hero, we can’t help but recognize the powerful role Kobe Bryant played in advertising, which was a large part of his public persona. Kobe was a mighty brand ambassador for giants like Adidas, McDonald’s, Nike, Coca Cola’s Sprite and Turkish Airlines. His charismatic, powerful personality shined through on the screen, making him a magnet for marketers.

Marketing fascinated Kobe. He brought the same competitive mindset to marketing he did to basketball. To build a successful brand, you need to stand out, and that’s just what Kobe did for both his own image and the companies he represented. Sitting in on a college marketing lecture wasn’t out of the ordinary for him. He loved being a disciplined student of his passions beyond the game of basketball, and marketing was one of them.

Kobe was a founding partner and primary investor at Zambezi, an agency that began as a shop solely dedicated to managing the Los Angeles Lakers star’s image. Thanks to Kobe’s inspiration and contribution, Zambezi is now the largest female-owned full-service agency in America. Its partners include Coca Cola, Venmo, Nike, Adidas, Beats, PayPal and Samsung.

The NBA star was also a content creator and captivating storyteller himself. He produced and narrated a short film called “Dear Basketball,” his poetic love letter and emotional farewell to his sport shortly after his retirement. He created the Academy Award-winning short film out of Granity Studios, his multimedia studio focused on telling stories around sports.

It’s not just Kobe’s long roster of brands and charisma that make his contribution to the advertising world so substantial, but his powerful presence as an inspirational figure. He recognized the importance of consistent, authentic brand identity, and he worked hard to be a model image for many high-profile companies. His name was more than a mark on a sneaker; it represented a strong work ethic, confidence and humility.