Lebron James to promote Dunkin' Donuts in Asia

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By ALEX KENNEDY, Associated Press

SINGAPORE (AP) — 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.

James will promote Dunkin's brands in China, Taiwan, India and South Korea through advertisements, online media and in-store marketing, Dunkin' said. James will also make personal appearances in Asia after the season ends in June.

Dunkin' executive John Costello declined to give the 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. 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. Dunkin' plans to add at least 250 stores in Asia during the next two to three years, 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, Travis said. South Korea has the most Dunkin' stores in Asia with about 1,900 while Japan has 1,087 — all Baskin-Robbins.

The company plans to boosts its total shops in China by 100 over the next few years from a current 150, Travis said.

The James deal "is Asia focused and reflects our commitment to Asia," 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.

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 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 Miami Heat lost in last year's finals to the Dallas Mavericks.

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Associated Press Writer Sharon Chen contributed to this story.

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