What The Kobe Bryant-Leo Messi Ad Says About The World

A Turkish Airlines spot goes viral

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It wouldn’t be odd that Los Angeles Lakes star Kobe Bryant and F.C. Barcelona’s goal scoring sensation Lionel Messi would share a commercial endorsement or two. But you would think it would more likely in a category such as athletic gear or soda. It’s not. Kobe’s a Nike and Sprite (Coca-Cola)  guy while Leo shills for adidas and Pepsi.

Instead the two have a combined endorsement in the most unlikely of places, the front cabin of a Turkish Airlines jet. In a commercial now running in the U.S. the 6’ 6” Laker guard and the 5’ 6” Barca striker vie for the attention of a young autograph seeker by one-upping each other doing ball tricks in their seat and steadily raising the stakes to balloon animals until the boy drops them both for some ice cream presented by a friendly hostess. “The best fly with Europe’s best airline” is the tag line.

What this has to do with airline service isn’t clear, but this one advertisement — which has been viewed over 70 million times on YouTube — can explain the global economy and its two most important sports, basketball and soccer, in a single minute.

Start with Messi, the man known as La Pulga (The Flea),  who just set a new scoring record by knocking in 90 goals this year. The notion that an Argentine- born soccer player who earns a living in Spain’s La Liga would be recognizable enough to sell products in the U.S. market underscores the idea that the soccer culture is firmly planted in America. Messi, like David Beckham before him, is an international star who plays for a team whose reach extends well beyond Spain. You see Barca shirts turn up all over the U.S., because both Barca’s and Argentina’s games can be seen regularly, on Fox Soccer, ESPN or Gol TV. And as the last election pointed out to the GOP, the changing demographics and expanding, and young, Hispanic population have Leo written all over it.

(MORE: Free Lesson With Kobe Bryant)

It would also be fair to say that Kobe Bryant is probably more recognizable in Europe than Leo Messi is in the U.S. Bryant has played in the Olympics twice and toured with the Lakers in preseason European trips. Basketball is big in Turkey, which has three teams in the Euroleague, which Turkish Airlines sponsors.  One of them, Fenerbahce Ulker, beat the Boston Celtics in a September exhibition. (Then again, a lot of teams are being the Celts this year.)  NBA games are televised regularly, so Kobe gets plenty of exposure. And unlike many Americans playing in the NBA, Kobe is worldly. He lived for six years in Italy when his father played there, and speaks Italian and Spanish—pretty handy for a global spokesman. Like any European, he’s a soccer fan, too, having been to the Nou Camp stadium to watch Barca play.

For Turkish Airlines, hiring two sports superstars is a signal that the carrier and the country have arrived. Turkey has been one of the bright sports in an otherwise difficult Eurozone economy. The country’s GDP grew nearly 10% annually in 2010 and 2011 before slowing this year, but it’s still positive. That overall economic growth means more demand for flights.Turkey’s tourism industry has also been surging—great history and great beaches. Turkey’s central geographic location makes it a gateway to Europe, Asia and Africa. In the U.S., Turkish Airlines flies to New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Washington. Going from Chicago to Kiev? They got you covered. Revenues are up nearly 27% this year and last year the company was named best European airline by the travel site Skytrax. The carrier says it serves more countries than any other airline and just bought 15 more jets from Boeing to do it.  Turkish Airlines is adding service to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Ndjamena, the capital of Chad, Kathmandu, Nepal, Mezar-ı Sherif, Afghanistan, Juba in South Sudan, and Lenkeran in Azerbaijan. These are far flung places, but it’s a good bet if Kobe and Leo stepped off a Turkish Airlines plane in one of them—not to mention Houston— they would be recognized immediately. That’s what makes an American hoop legend and an Argentine football wizard valuable to an airline company in Asia Minor.

(MORE: Leo Messi’s Final Goal)

25 comments
joeyperez10000
joeyperez10000

outside of america, this advert is called, "messi and his body guard"

joeyperez10000
joeyperez10000

no kobe isnt more recognisable in europe than messi is in america. americas hispanic population are football mad and they all know who messi is. kobe could literally get on the london underground and no one would know who he was. 

joeyperez10000
joeyperez10000

if you think kobe bryant is more recognisable than messi,, youre mentally ill. 

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Leave it to TIME Magazine to not-so-subtly inject politics into a sports-themed article.

The subject matter of this article (Kobe, Messi) proved too irresistible for TIME to ignore the "ever-changing demographics of the US."  And, of course, TIME just HAD to claim (without any evidence) that the GOP was schooled by those (oh boy!) changing demographics.  Of course, Kobe is Black, and Messi is Argentinian.  Since both are minorities, both therefore represent the changing face of America.

Surely, TIME, you jest.

America is not about to 'go dark' just yet.  Illegal immigration has been declining (due to economic uncertainty in the US), and the illegals are actually going back home (mainly to Mexico).  Also, those illegals who stay in the US (and avoid capture/deportation) are not having as many children, which means that consistent Hispanic growth is not assured.  In other words, sorry, but those minorities won't be taking over any time soon.

So, TIME, it would be wise not to peg Kobe and Messi as poster children for the changing face of America.  

capereyra
capereyra

Kobe might be better known  in Europe than Messi in the US but Messi is better known globally.

adnan7631
adnan7631

The flea? Really? That's just a TERRIBLE nickname. I really prefer El Maestro, El Magico, or, in English, the Magician. 

JamieMorganVanLooy
JamieMorganVanLooy

Hi foolish Bill Smackarino, author of this silly yarn, you slam the Celtics in this article? Why? Instead of BEING witty, you're BEATING  yourself witless by not proofreading your own article. Looks to me like you're missing not only one but TWO letters there Billy-Bob-Boy. Not to mention missing the point about not mentioning that the Celtics have a winning record this year as opposed to Kobes Lakers who do not. Kobe is at the end of his career,let alone championship caliber years. You grossly overestimate his selling power, everyone knows how he has treated his wife,teamates,etc. I follow sports, and I honestly never heard of the soccer "star" mentioned. Soccer is simply boring. Almost as boring and lame as this article.

GeorgeMolnar
GeorgeMolnar

The article states:


"One of them, Fenerbahce Ulker, beat the Boston Celtics in a September exhibition. (Then again, a lot of teams are being the Celts this year.)

Ty: "Just be the ball, be the ball, be the ball. You're not being the ball, Danny."


NewtonFig
NewtonFig

What an ignorant outlook.  Messi is far more recognizable in Europe than KOBE is.  Nobody cares about Olympic basketball, so that doesn't count.  Kobe's brand is very big,yes, but Messi is a household name in Europe, inching up to be as possibly the greatest soccer player in history.  Kobe is likely bigger in Asia, true, because soccer isnt nearly as ingrained in the DNA there, and even with South Korea and Japanese World Coup success, they still dont have the star power and quality remotely touching Europe clubs

And to say Messi isnt recognized in the US ignores the massive expansion of professional soccer spectators in the US in the last 5 years, due in large part to hispanic fans and fans from other countries that still have post colonial ties to Spain

rafaelmendes
rafaelmendes

Excuse me, but "soccer" is only for you Americans and a few Asian countries. For the rest of world is FOOTBALL!

emin.kasan
emin.kasan

Good to see that Messi is becoming recognized in the USA as well as the rest of the world.

AndrewK
AndrewK

Thanks for the explanation as to why these two sports figures were used.  Learn something new everyday!

halexolvera
halexolvera

it's the same simple thing as always....the rest of the world knows more about the rest of the world including the United states than the United states will ever know about the rest of the world or the United states itself............

9DeuceSupreme
9DeuceSupreme

Great Article....One issue though. Barca's home stadium is "Camp Nou" not "Nou Camp"

jef111
jef111

@mrbomb13Allow me to educate you and gladly burst your bubble regard the changing face of the US. Illegal immigrants ARE NOT the reason the majority is about to become the minority.  It's the LEGAL, AMERICAN-BORN Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and African Americans. You sound as clueless as the Republican party itself.

adnan7631
adnan7631

@JamieMorganVanLooy 

You've never heard of Messi? Do you live under a rock? Newsflash, soccer in the US has higher average attendance than the NBA. If you care so much about sports, start paying attention. 


sam
sam

@JamieMorganVanLooy Well I suppose you've never left the US then and no loss for Turkish Airlines in any case.. :)

EricSatterwhite
EricSatterwhite

Soccer has grown in the US, but not anywhere close to football, baseball, basketball, or even hockey.  They are probably advertising here since US consumers are more likely to spend more money on vacations.  I watch ESPN on a daily basis & unless its World Cup time soccer is mentioned for maybe 30 seconds, especially during football season.

GaryDavid
GaryDavid

@NewtonFig The article stated Kobe is more popular in Europe in relation Messi's popularity in the US; it wasn't overall popularity. Say 1/25 Americans know who Messi is yet 1/15 Europeans know who Kobe; therefore Kobe is more popular in Europe than Messi is in America.

adnan7631
adnan7631

@rafaelmendes As AbramChamberlain pointed out, there are a dozen ways to name the sport. Calling it Football means NOTHING. I might as well call it Calcio (Italian), voetbal (Dutch), Kurat Al Kudum (Arabic), or Fußball (German). 

AbramChamberlain
AbramChamberlain

@rafaelmendes and a few Africans. Then there are the Italians who call it calcio. Oooooh, or the South American's who call it futbol, which is not a translation of football - because that would be bola de pie. Yes, yes, yes let's get into semantics over the different names of the same sport. Because everyone has to call it the same namd and people who call it soccer, a name that - to quote the popular cliche - that originated in England.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@jef111 @mrbomb13 

Actually, if you read my post, I did not say that the majority was "about to become the minority."  Instead, I pointed to falling birth rates among Hispanics as the reason for why current growth in the Hispanic community will not be sustained.  That's not my opinion; it's demographic fact.

Additionally, I said that illegal immigrants are a reason for the growing minority population, not "the [sole] reason."  If each illegal alien had been deported, that would be 12+ million deportations.  Furthermore, if their children (born on American soil) were not counted as American citizens, that would increase the number by at least a few million more.  So, by allowing illegals to stay in the country, you therefore allow their children to stay as well.  That artificially increases the minority population (and, indirectly, the number of Democrat Party voters).

Furthermore, the legal immigration of Asians, Islanders, Blacks (etc.) would not alone make Whites a minority.  It is only because of the Hispanic growth that this is even an issue.  The effects of the growth is compounded by a drop in the White birth rate, which is a result of 1) delaying marriage, and 2) delaying child-birth.  If the White birth rate should increase, you will see Whites remain in the majority for longer.  

adnan7631
adnan7631

@EricSatterwhite 

MLS actually has higher average attendance per game than both the NBA and NHL. Among people under 25, soccer is the second most popular sport, after American football (not any particular league of soccer, though). The United States national team regularly has a high number of viewers. The USA vs. Italy game outdrew everything else on ESPN that whole day despite being played in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week. 

It's true that soccer gets no love from the standard media in the US but that's changing. More and more people know who Messi is now (especially as the US attracts more and more Latinos and the generation that played soccer as kids grows up). Soccer is (finally) coming into it's own in the US. 


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