Stephen Curry wants to reach millions of Chinese basketball fans, and he’s getting help from a San Francisco-based startup to do it.
The NBA star this week announced a partnership with PressPlay, a new company that teams up with celebrities to help grow their brands across the globe.
PressPlay will work with Curry to create content for white-label mobile apps and websites used by Chinese consumers, who will get access to exclusive training videos, live-streamed events, Q&A sessions, video diaries, and more behind-the-scenes material — all featuring the NBA MVP. There is also an e-commerce component to the partnership, as users will be able to buy Curry-related products via the apps.
In an interview with GeekWire, PressPlay CEO Samuel Pearton said that he started the company with co-founder Alexander Meek after spending three years at a Shanghai-based creative services agency. While there, he saw how Chinese celebrities were using technology to create content and sell merchandise.
“That’s when the lightbulb went off — there was a lack of access for foreign talent into this market,” he explained. “There is obviously a hunger for talent-led transactions.”
Pearton started PressPlay nearly two years ago, but the startup is now officially launching with Curry as one of its first high-profile partners.
Curry is one of the more aggressive NBA stars when it comes to off-the-court technology and business-related activity. Earlier this year he helped launch Slyce, a new startup that works with celebrities to optimize their social media strategies. The 28-year-old, who launched his own emoji app this year, is also an investor in CoachUp, a private sports training platform.
Curry is not an investor in PressPlay but will share revenue with the company from his branded apps and web properties. He’ll work with the 12-person startup to develop and help come up with content ideas that might appeal to the reported 300 million basketball fans in China, where there are also more than 500 million smartphone users.
Curry is also headed to China next month on behalf of Under Armour, the shoe and apparel giant that is trying to cut into Nike’s market share both in the U.S. and around the globe.
“I’m very excited to have the chance to interact with my Chinese fans in a more meaningful way,” Curry said in a statement. “My fans mean a great deal to me and PressPlay will help me reach them in ways I never thought possible.”
Pearson said that his company’s knowledge of Western talent, combined with its experience in the Chinese market, is a potent combination for a star like Curry who is looking to reach consumers in China. PressPlay also today announced a strategic investment from Sing Tao News Corporation Limited, a Hong Kong-based media company that will provide guidance and connections to the Chinese market.
Pearson added that technology is a “big part of this play,” with the app itself and potential live streaming and virtual reality projects on the way. He added that there is a hunger for this type of content from tech-savvy Chinese consumers.
“They are passionate, they love basketball, and they love Steph,” he said.
The CEO also talked about how Chinese smartphone owners are comfortable buying products with their smartphone perhaps more than any group worldwide. He pointed to WeChat as one example of a ubiquitous app that people use to not only communicate, but also buy movie tickets, pay bills, hail taxis, and much more. This is something we noticed on our trip to Shanghai and Beijing last year.
“If you’re looking to create a product that relies around transacting, China is definitely a market that is the most mature in the world,” Pearson said.
Curry is among a growing group of athletes who are investing in technology to help build their off-the-court brands and make money. Kobe Bryant, the NBA legend who retired this past season, just announced a new $100 million venture fund for investing in technology, media and data startups. Curry’s move into the Chinese market very much follows in the footsteps of Bryant, who is regarded as the most popular athlete in China.
There are others, too — Curry’s teammate Andre Igoudala also shares a similar passion for tech and helped organize a new Technology Summit hosted by the NBA Players’ Association last month. New York Knicks Star Carmelo Anthony, meanwhile, teamed up with former NBC and Bertelsmann executive Stuart Goldfarb in 2013 to invest in tech startups. Their company is called Melo 7 Tech Partners.
Locally, former Seattle Seahawk Russell Okung launched the Greater Foundation last year in Seattle as a way to both provide opportunity for students and cause real change in a U.S. technology industry that is lacking diversity.
In addition, international stars like Cristiano Ronaldo — who is also working with PressPlay — are finding ways to grow their brands across borders with their own self-branded apps and web platforms.