TOKYO -- Nissin Foods Holdings has entered an endorsement deal with Rui Hachimura, the first Japanese basketball player to be picked in the first round of the NBA draft, as the noodle maker looks to further boost its profile overseas.
In a news conference Monday, his first since joining the Washington Wizards, Hachimura spoke of his lifelong love of Nissin's Cup Noodles.
"When I was in high school, I ate dinner after I went home from club meetings, but when I went back to my room, I'd get hungry again right away. I ate Cup Noodles a lot then," he said.
"I'm honored to be able to sign a deal with such a familiar company," he added.
Nissin showed a commercial at the news conference featuring Hachimura saying maidohaya, or "hello," in his native Toyama Prefecture dialect. The company is also considering working with Hachimura on new products.
Nissin hopes the endorsement deal, announced last month, will help boost sales outside Japan. Its share of the global instant noodle market fell 0.3 percentage point last year to 11.2%, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. While it remained in second place, it lagged behind the 14.5% of Taiwan-based Tingyi Holding, the maker of Master Kong noodles.
In the U.S., where Hachimura plays, Japanese rival Toyo Suisan commands a near-70% share backed by the popularity of its Maruchan-brand instant noodles. Nissin believes that the key to success in the U.S. market lies in penetrating the younger generation, among whom the 21-year-old Hachimura has the potential to become a star.