March 6th, 2012
11:48 AM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – It might seem unlikely that a highly-paid NBA star and highly-caloric donuts would have anything in common. But in Asia, such a partnership could mean brand growth and better profits for both.

This week U.S. company Dunkin’ Brands - the owner of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins ice cream stores - said it had teamed up with the NBA’s LeBron James, forward for the Miami Heat. James is now ambassador for Dunkin’ Brands to China, Taiwan, India and South Korea.

You could say this double team is hoping for a “slam dunkin.” And their game plan seems sound.

With nine NBA seasons under his belt, James is mega popular in China, the world’s most populous country. And China is the NBA’s second largest market after the U.S.

In fact, James’s NBA jersey - #6 - is reportedly the region's top-seller, as are his shoes. And Dunkin’ wants to associate itself with this red-hot popularity.

Its recent performance indicates Dunkin’ Brands has good reason to be confident. Its share price on the New York-based NASDAQ index has risen 17% year-to-date. In the fourth quarter of 2011, its global sales were 15% higher than for the same quarter in 2010.

And you’re far more likely to see a Dunkin’ Donuts or Baskin Robbins in Asia than any of its competitors.

Dunkin’ Brands has about 5,400 stores across the Asia-Pacific region. By 2015, it wants to add around 250 more. Its competitor in coffee, Starbucks, has some 1,700 stores across Asia. Donut-making rival Krispy Kreme, famous for its glazed sugary goodies, has around 100 stores across the region.

And if you pass the orange-and-pink Dunkin’ Donuts logo in greater China, you should expect to find some new taste sensations. DD, as they’re also known, is adapting its offerings for local palate preferences.

Dunkin’ Donuts in China won’t just feature sweet toppings and coffee. They’re also reportedly developing milk tea and doughnuts with a popular pork floss topping - described by many as having the consistency of cotton candy but with a savory, and lightly meaty, flavor.

When in Rome, or in this case, when in Asia…do as they do and eat as they eat.

Larger profits and faster growth are waiting to be pulled out of that hot Asian oven.



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