Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi Go Head-to-Head for Turkish Airlines

Airline Taps Sports Stars to Publicize New Routes

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When two of the biggest names in sports star in a commercial, it's bound to go viral in a big way. So it's little surprise that Turkish Airlines "Legends on Board" makes its debut at No. 1 on the Chart this week. It garnered 18.3 million views last week after launching on Thursday, but since Monday on YouTube alone its views have grown to more than 28 million. In addition, the campaign already has 75 related clips.

The minute spot pits Kobe Bryant against soccer star Lionel Messi in a competition to win a young autograph-seeking fan's adoration. Neither one wanting to be outdone, the sports stars try to win over the boy by performing increasingly amazing -- and odd -- tricks like making balloon animals and card houses.

Although Turkish Airlines is the official carrier of Messi's team, FC Barcelona, this ad marks the beginning of the Argentinean footballer's official role as "brand ambassador" for the airline. It coincides with the launch this week of a new route that runs from Istanbul to Buenos Aires.

Bryant became a spokesperson for Turkish Airlines in 2010 when the airline announced its new route from Istanbul to Los Angeles and has starred in at least one other humorous spot since then. Manchester United, which uses the airline as its official carrier, and tennis player Caroline Wozniacki have also taken center stage in recent commercials for the airline.

If the airline sticks with this marketing strategy, it may be adding a whole crew of new brand ambassadors in the coming years as it rolls out in new cities. The company is looking to expand its network from just over 200 destinations to 250 by 2015. In aid of that goal, this week it placed an order with Boeing for 15 new 777 planes, doubling the airline's fleet of these long-haul carriers.

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