Coke plans Chinese ads as Lin plays MSG

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Coca-Cola wants a piece of "Linsanity."

Knicks fans will soon see Coke ads in Chinese on the rotating courtside signs at Madison Square Garden.

Coca-Cola spokeswoman Susan Stribling said Coke has a long-standing partnership with the NBA and already displays ads at The Garden, but wants to take advantage of the enthusiasm surrounding NBA sensation Jeremy Lin and the Knicks.

The courtside ads could go up as early as next week, but it's unclear how long they will be around. The Knicks are fighting for a playoff spot. If they don't get one, their season ends in late April.

Lin was undrafted and cut by two NBA teams before he shot to stardom with the New York Knicks this season. The Harvard graduate is the NBA's first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent. His scoring run in February, dubbed Linsanity, boosted interest in the Knicks in the New York area, across the U.S. and overseas.

China is a major market for the NBA and the popularity of basketball in Asia has grown during the last decade, in part because of former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming of China, who retired last year.

Stribling said the courtside ads are a favorite of advertisers, because they can be seen by fans at the game and on TV, both in the U.S. and abroad. The company is also considering putting up Mandarin ads in The Garden's concourses, she said.

Coke is still working on what the ads will exactly look like, but Stribling said the company's products will be the subject of them, not Lin. It also won't take away from the company's current ads campaigns at The Garden, just supplement them, she said.

While he hasn't signed an endorsement deal with Coke, Lin has signed a two-year contract with automaker Volvo to promote the company's cars around the world, particularly in Asia. The first commercials with Lin may appear as early as June.

Coke's Chinese ads and the Volvo deal come as Lin's performance has dropped off in recent weeks with the return of Knicks star Carmelo Anthony from injury.

The company's decision to create the Chinese ads was first reported by Bloomberg News.