Smartphone firm rockets into the USUpdated: 2013-10-15 08:43
ZTE is launching a charm offensive in a tough market, in a major bid to promote its brand among American consumers, reports Shen Jingting from Houston
A model displays a ZTE smartphone in Taipei on Saturday. ZTE has signed a partnership to become the official smartphone supplier of NBA team Houston Rockets, which are playing preseason games in Taipei. Zeng Peng / Xinhua
Few Chinese companies have managed so far to gain a footprint in the huge and profitable United States market. But more Chinese firms are trying to establish a presence there, especially smartphone makers such as ZTE Corp.
On Oct 5, in the Toyota Center, in downtown Houston, Texas, Cheng Lixin, the chairman and chief executive officer of ZTE USA Inc, looked a little bit nervous. A big fan of the NBA, Cheng was about to watch a preseason game featuring the Houston Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Cheng tried to keep calm by taking deep breaths. However, it was not only the game that was making him nervous. There was something much more important at stake. That night, he would make an important announcement to the thousands of people present at the venue and to many more outside the Toyota Center.
For the first time ever, ZTE was taking a bold move to market itself in the US market by using an NBA team's appeal. In the past several months, Cheng and his team had held frequent meetings with the management of the Houston Rockets to forge an alliance to boost ZTE's profile in the US smartphone market.
"This is the biggest overseas investment ZTE has made so far," Cheng told China Daily in an interview before that preseason game.
And the timing could not be better, since the Rockets' newly added Dwight Howard is playing this season together with James Harden, Jeremy Lin and others, making for a formidable team.
Many reasons made ZTE choose the Houston Rockets, Cheng said. Among them is the fact that Houston is one of the five biggest markets for ZTE in the US. The city can help ZTE conquer the country's smartphone market, which is now dominated by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc.
"The Houston Rockets boast 350 million fans worldwide, and the team's popularity can also lift ZTE's branding in the United States," Cheng said.
That positive influence may even stretch to China, as well as to many markets in emerging countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, where a large percentage of young people are Rockets fans.