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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Kobe in PlayStation game

In a very good announcement, Kobe Bryant and his new, No. 24 Lakers jersey will be the starring attraction for NBA 07, the new PlayStation 2 video game that will be released this fall, Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. said Friday.

In fact, the agreement, announced in front of a crowd of youngsters in the gymnasium of the Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club in Los Angeles, means the first new major sports marketing deal for Bryant since sexual-assault charges were brought against him in July 2003, although the charges were dropped in September 2004.

However, financial terms of the sponsorship deal were not released.

Bryant's image will be featured on packaging for the video game, and he will be in television and print ads.

"Kobe was our option from the start, no question," said Sharon Shapiro, Sony Computer Entertainment's senior director of promotions and sports product marketing. Bryant said that the Sony contract "just naturally made sense because we're both trying to have a strong impact on our fields."

The Lakers player said that he is in regular contact with Shapiro to discuss advertising and marketing plans for the game that also will be produced for Sony's portable video game player and the PlayStation3 line to be introduced in November.

It's important to mention that Phoenix Suns star Amare Stoudemire was the featured player in the NBA 06 video game. That game was the ninth biggest seller in the $10.5-billion video games category during 2005, according to NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm.

Video game fans — males between the ages of 14 and 34 buy most of the games — aren't likely to balk at buying a game because of Bryant's high-profile legal problems.

"I'd guess that 81 points speaks a lot louder," said David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute, in reference to the Lakers star's single-game performance last season. "The video gamer is much more concerned with his on-the-court performance."

Sports marketers also said that Bryant, who will turn 28 next week, could be an effective spokesman for Sony even though the NBA has steadily added younger stars. Those include LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade, three of the top five NBA draftees in 2003 who were named as tri-captains for the USA Basketball team.