Lakers star Kobe Bryant has signed on as spokesman for Panini America, and the Lakers made a sponsorship deal to promote the company’s Adrenalyn line.

Panini America, a subsidiary of Italian trading card giant Panini Group, holds an exclusive license to manufacture National Basketball Association-branded trading cards. The Adrenalyn brand is an interactive line.

The interactive cards allow fans to input codes on the Panini Web site and compete in a game using the players on the cards. Fans win the game by having cards with better players. More than 10,000 people have been playing the game since it was launched earlier this year.

As part of the Lakers sponsorship, the company distributed 20,000 packs of cards at the April 11 Lakers game. Panini plans to give away 4 million packs of cards throughout the United States during the first few months of the product launch.

The Web site promotes the company’s other cards and collectibles, including a Harry Potter line. Panini, which purchased the better-known Donruss brand last year, eventually hopes to make money off the NBA sponsorship with increased card sales.

The company launched the Adrenalyn product line at the NBA All-Star Game in February. Bryant, who was present at the game but sat out due to injury, grew up in Italy and knows the Panini brand well because he collected the cards as a kid.

The second phase of Panini’s marketing plan started with the beginning of the NBA playoffs April 17. The company has filmed television commercials starring Bryant that will begin airing this week.

The company may try to form a partnership with the Los Angeles Clippers in the future, but Chief Marketing Officer Scott Prusha said a deal may hinge on the marketability of Clippers star Blake Griffin, who missed his rookie season because of a knee injury.

“He will be a superstar once he’s healthy, but it’s tough to partner with a team when their star player isn’t on the court,” Prusha said.

Museum Row

Gary Cypres’ sports memorabilia collection has found an exhibit space in Staples Center. The $30 million collection includes rare baseball cards, jerseys, posters, equipment and other historical items.

A part of the collection is now featured in the former location of Fox Sports Skybox, a restaurant and bar next to the souvenir and jersey store inside the arena. The Skybox closed last year. The museum opened last week on game nights. Admission is free for ticketholders to Staples games.

Cypres calls his collection Sports Museum Los Angeles, and displays it in a 32,000-square-foot warehouse at the corner of Main Street and Washington Boulevard, south of downtown Los Angeles.

The museum opened in September 2008, but poor attendance led Cypres to close it to the public just six months later. It remains open for private groups by reservation.

Cypres was traveling out of the country last week and was unavailable for comment.

Pie Ball

BBQ chicken pizzas are back at Dodger Stadium after last year’s absence. California Pizza Kitchen Inc. returned as a sponsor of the Los Angeles Dodgers and will offer three types of pizzas available at games this season. The others are plain cheese and pepperoni.

The Century City-based company first formed a partnership with the Dodgers in 2008, but declined to renew its sponsorship last year due to a reduction in its advertising budget when the economy soured.

“We made a tactical decision to cut our spending last year, but we feel better about being at Dodger Stadium for 2010,” Larry Flax, co-chief executive, told the Business Journal.

Flax would like to see the CPK salads offered at the stadium, but the necessary refrigeration equipment isn’t available.

“We have the salads at Staples Center, but we don’t have the production abilities at Dodger Stadium.” Flax said. “We’ll take things one step at a time.”

World Cup

Visa Inc. and Los Angeles Galaxy star Landon Donovan have teamed up for an online video game designed to teach kids and adults about personal finance.

Donovan helped launch the Fifa World Cup-branded educational game as the Major League Soccer season began, and with the World Cup in South Africa approaching this summer. The game features multiple-choice questions about personal finance; players advance when they give correct answers. Visa already has a similar game branded with the National Football League.

“We wanted Landon to be involved because he is the most recognizable American soccer player,” said Jason Alderman, Visa director of financial education.

Donovan helped write some of the game’s questions.

Ocean View

Skin-care products giant Nivea signed as title sponsor for L.A. beach volleyball tour operator AVP Inc. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Nivea joins the AVP tour after the departure of footwear maker Crocs Inc., which declined to renew its sponsorship at the end of its five-year contract. AVP will rebrand its on-site tents from its previous yellow and black décor to match the blue color of Nivea’s product line.

Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at dnusbaum@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236.

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