Doll will be available in L.A., Orange counties

LOS ANGELES -- Fast food chain Carl's Jr. will test the advertising appeal of basketball star Kobe Bryant when it offers a Bryant bobblehead doll as part of its annual Lakers promotion next month.

Carl's Jr. will sell bobblehead dolls of Bryant and four of his teammates for $4.99 each with the purchase of a value meal, starting with Lamar Odom on March 16. Bryant's doll will debut April 13 and be available at restaurants in Los Angeles and Orange counties for one week.

The story was reported Tuesday by SportsBusiness Daily.

Bryant's career as a pitchman was abruptly halted when he was arrested in 2003 for felony sexual assault after an encounter with a 19-year-old woman in a Colorado hotel room. The charge was dropped last summer and a civil suit brought against Bryant was settled earlier this month.

Sports marketers have estimated Bryant lost $4 million to $6 million in endorsement contracts after his arrest. He has not appeared in Nike commercials since the allegations surfaced, and McDonald's and Nutella did not renew their deals with him after his arrest.

The decision to include Bryant was made by the company last year after the criminal charges had been dropped but while the civil suit was still pending.

"There was some discussion internally" concerning the appropriateness of including Bryant, Renae Scott, vice president of regional marketing and media for Carl's Jr. said Tuesday. Ultimately, Bryant was included because "he is an integral part of the Lakers team and a fabulous player."

None of the players featured, including Bryant, will be included in ads for the promotion.

The players are compensated for use of their likenesses but terms were not disclosed.

Carl's Jr. is known for edgy advertising. In the past, the chain has featured a woman eating a burger while riding a mechanical bull as well as Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner in ads.

This is the second year for the Lakers bobblehead promotion.