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Coke, Pepsi Fight Over Yao Ming
Aired May 16, 2003 - 20:40 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: His face seems to be everywhere these days. But now Houston Rockets star Yao Ming says it's turning up in too many places. You might recognize him from commercials like these where he is promoting the Visa check card.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "COMMERCIAL")
YAO MING, HOUSTON ROCKETS: Can I write a check?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yo.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAGAN: That one gets me every time, it's very clever. Well, that's for Visa check card, but also is a deal with Pepsi. Despite this deal that Yao Ming has with Pepsi, his face is turning up on bottles of Coca-Cola back in his native country of China. Coke says the deal is with the Chinese men's basketball team, and that one was signed first. Yao wants Coke to take his image off of his products. Who's right?
Let's bring in Gerri Willis, our financial analyst from CNN Financial News. Good to see you at night.
GERRI WILLIS, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS: Good to see you, Daryn.
KAGAN: First of all, let's talk about Yao as the pitch man. A year ago, I'm telling you, most Americans had no idea who Yao Ming was.
WILLIS: Now this 22-year-old kid one of the most famous faces in the country. Right? And with good reason. He's probably the biggest pitch man of any rookie since Michael Jordan. That's what they are saying right now. Has a four-year, $18 million deal with the Rockets; he's got $4 million in promotions coming this year with big companies. Pepsi, Apple, Visa. He's not doing business with some small-timers here. It's big Fortune 500 companies.
KAGAN: He's a big guy, and he's a big guy in endorsements as well. So goes ahead and he signs with Pepsi. As I understand, there was kind of a bidding war for his services here. He decided to go with Pepsi. He is a Pepsi guy. Situation's a little different back in China, though.
WILLIS: That's right. Coke had a deal with the Chinese team that Yao used to play with. And they're allowed to use the images of those players in their ads over there. So that's exactly what they're doing. Pepsi is saying this is unfair, they're having a huge argument over it. But I have got to tell you, this isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened. Pepsi and Coke went head to head over David Beckman (sic), who is the British soccer star. You may know his name.
KAGAN: Well, there's that movie out right now, called "Bend It Like Beckham."
WILLIS: That's right, exactly, and they're fighting over these guys in every marketplace that you can find. It's called ambush marketing.
KAGAN: Well, the thing that's interesting about this, too, is also a peek inside of how the economics and marketing works inside of China and the kind of powers that sports stars have. I guess this is starting new territory, breaking new territory, breaking new ground for someone like Yao Ming to speak up and say, hey, I don't care what you do with the Chinese team, I'm an individual, I'm a star, and I don't want my face on there.
WILLIS: I think it is going to be interesting to see how this plays out. I think the attorneys are probably going to get involved here...
KAGAN: No, really? Attorneys are going to get involved? Shocking.
WILLIS: So we'll see what happens. But I sure can't predict it.
KAGAN: But one thing is predictable, Yao Ming is big and he's going to be even bigger.
WILLIS: That's right. That's right. 7-foot-5, got to love that.
KAGAN: A big guy, lots of money too. Gerri Willis, thank you so much for that.
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