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Building a brand: ZTE becomes the Knicks’ official smartphone provider

It ain’t easy breaking into the U.S. smartphone market. Many companies have tried — and failed — to do so. So far, ZTE has made an inroads with its budget-friendly smartphones and it’s actually the fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer in the United States. Now it’s on a mission to build brand recognition. As part of its game plan, ZTE announced on Monday a partnership with the New York Knicks.

The Chinese smartphone company already has marketing rights with the NBA and is the official smartphone provider for the Houston Rockets, too. Now it adds the Knicks to its list of team partners. During the announcement, ZTE’s Lixin Cheng compared his company’s aims to those of the Knicks, declaring that both teams are there to win. He was awarded the number 8 jersey to celebrate the deal. Cheng was pleased with his new number, as it’s actually considered the luckiest number of all in China. The number eight, Cheng explained, is for prosperity and luck — two things ZTE will need to break into the U.S. market.

Related: T-Mobile and ZTE present the ZMax phablet for $250

No specific handset will be promoted and Knicks players won’t be required to carry around only ZTE phones. However, a Knicks representative said that any player who asks for a device will get one. ZTE’s strategy is probably wise, given the almost consistent failure of celebrity smartphone endorsements.

ZTE’s main goal is to increase brand awareness in the U.S. with marketing, ads, and promotional seat upgrades for Knicks fans. ZTE stated that it currently has 56 devices available for sale in the U.S. and boasted that its phones can be found at any carrier.