So the Thanksgiving business lull comes and goes, and with it comes, hopefully the end of the NBA lockout, which means the players and teams can get back to the business of basketball. One of those key to NBA success is Kobe…as in the Lakers Kobe Bryant, and in many ways how his season goes can help determine the business success of many. Lots of questions to be answered in LA this winter with the Lakers, but the Kobe brand should continue strong.
However this past week brought the continued unique emergence of yet another Kobe…competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi. The thin, energenetic Japanese native helped establish the world of competitive eating in the world of popular culture, as he broke record after record, not just of hot dogs, but of meatballs, hamburgers, whatever was placed in front of him. Kobayashi helped create the competitive marketplace, and with it helped create a brand for himself to travel the world and not just win contests, but draw attention and business away from the eating table. With that brand came challenges though, and as others signed their rights away to compete at select elite events, specifically the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest on July 4th in New York, Kobe did not. As a result he and his team have forged on to find other ways to establish himself and partner with other events to expand his business portfolio.
This past week, the Japanese competitive eater again took another step to prove his brand is bigger than the one July 4 event, staging an event in New York to set the record for most turkey consumer in ten minutes. He and his team partnered with YouStream to show the event live, and Kobe used the event to again talk to his dedication to events away from just the niche world of competitive eating…he used it to talk about helping those less fortunate on the Thanksgiving holiday in his now adopted home, New York. Yes he broke the record, but even more impressive, with little dollar spend or promotion, were the almost 100,000 word of mouth downloads of the video that followed on one of the busiest holiday weekends on the calendar.
What does it say about “brand Kobe”? First it says that yes, competitive eating is still a pretty unique prospect for those who are well…best at it. They can draw crowds, thousands, to watch them ply their gastronomic trade. Second, and more important, it says that Kobayashi has actually created his own brand away from one event, one that has a following and one that, if he can diversify and show his personality away from just eating, could have value to companies looking to connect with a young, unique and very strong personality. It is a great market for brands looking to be edgier and more viral, who can push the envelope a bit in exposure in their quest to reach a larger audience. It is not as much about the act, it is about the personality and the story, and Kobayashi is looking to carve his niche as an endorser, a supporter of causes that can draw views, and one that almost certainly can be bigger than the one event which he helped put on the map.
Maybe down the line one Kobe and meet the other, as both are champions and unique personalities, and both certainly worthy of their own exposure as they ply their trade and draw attention around the world.