March 20, 2012 / 11:18 PM / 6 years ago

Volvo banking on 'Linsanity' to boost car sales

DETROIT (Reuters) - Swedish auto brand Volvo has hired New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin, who has electrified basketball fans around the world, to help sell its luxury cars in China and the United States.

New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin looks on during a break in the play during an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Chicago, March 12, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young

Lin signed a two-year contract to appear in advertisements and act as a brand ambassador for Volvo, owned by China’s Geely, parent of Geely Automotive Holdings Ltd (0175.HK).

The endorsement deal, described by the company as “another milestone of Volvo’s revival,” comes at a time when Volvo is aiming to more than quadruple its sales in China, the world’s largest auto market, over the next three years.

“For our region, Jeremy Lin is the pride of the whole Chinese population,” Freeman Shen, chairman of Volvo Car China operations said in a statement on Monday.

China was Volvo’s third-largest market, after the United States and Sweden in 2011. Volvo is aiming to sell 200,000 cars in China by 2015, up from the 47,140 cars it sold last year. By 2020, Volvo hopes to sell 800,000 cars in that country.

Lin, 23, rose to international celebrity in early February when, in the absence of the team’s two star players, he led the Knicks to a string of victories that spawned a glossary of terms such as Linsanity, Lincredible and Linvincible.

The clean-cut Harvard graduate, born to Taiwanese parents and raised California, also won fame in China, the National Basketball Association’s second-biggest market outside North America.

“You may not see the connection between me and Volvo,” Lin said in a statement. “But both of us are striving to be better and smarter at what we do, and to do it in our own way.”

    Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

    Geely bought Volvo from Ford Motor Co (F.N) in August 2010 in a deal valued at $1.8 billion that reflected China’s growing clout on the international stage.

    Initially, the was a “huge mismatch” between Volvo and Geely management over vehicle strategy, people familiar with the matter said last year.

    But over time, that rift appeared to have been smoothed over, sources said. Volvo operates as a stand-alone company.

    This month, the two companies signed a technology transfer deal that would allow Geely to develop a new premium brand for the market that would not compete with Volvo.

    Reporting By Deepa Seetharaman and Bernie Woodall

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