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Steph Curry, Under Armour hit China for crucial trip: Our diary

Nearly 16 hours and 10,000 miles later, we arrived in Hong Kong. CNBC is following around two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry as he embarked on a marketing tour across China and Taiwan as part of an Under Armour-sponsored trip.

The stakes are high for Baltimore-based Under Armour. After years of rapid growth in the United States, the brand now needs to reach that global customer. And China is a key market. A country with more than 1.3 billion people, which includes by some estimates 300 million basketball players, the Chinese consumer can't get enough NBA gear.

The NBA is the top-selling league when it comes to merchandise in China. According to Fanatics, which sells NBA-licensed merchandise, league merchandise saw a 48 percent spike last season.

This trip will help Under Armour and Curry become household names that they hope will translate into more sales.

Nike and Adidas have found big success in this region and had a huge head start. Unlike UA, Nike has a wider network of basketball stars under its umbrella to try to appeal to the Chinese consumer (Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant). Under Armour is staking its future on one guy.

Can Under Armour break through in China and reach the next level?

That's one of the key questions we're looking at while here. We're following around UA CEO Kevin Plank and Curry as they visit factories, retailers and consumers in Hong Kong and then Taiwan.

Welcome to Hong Kong

Hong Kong
Leong Cho Pan | Getty Images
Hong Kong

Sunday, 10 p.m.

CNBC arrives.

Monday, 7 a.m.

Day 1 in Hong Kong and Curry visited an Under Armour factory in Shenzhen. It employs nearly 40,000 people and make his shoes from start to finish.

Curry got a surprise when 3,000 factory workers stood outside the factory to welcome the man they create sneakers for daily.


Monday, 1:30 p.m.

Curry and Plank took time out to talk with CNBC about their growth plans here and why it's such an important region.

"I think we are just getting started here," said Plank. The UA CEO said that in just a few short years the company was able to grow the business to over $150 million in revenue.

Since it started in China in 2000, it has seen double-digit growth every year as revenue has literally multiplied.

But Under Armour enters a crowded space. Nike, has long dominated the region and projects revenues of more than $3.6 billion by the end of 2016 in China alone.

Plank said there's enough room for everyone, and he plans to open 46 additional stores in mainland China in 2016, bringing the total to 162 stores.

"If you can crack the code on China, it's a massive step forward. It's one I think you will see from the UA brand that we feel pretty positive about."


Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and CNBC's Sara Eisen
Source: CNBC
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and CNBC's Sara Eisen

For Curry, it's his third visit to China and it's all about connecting with his fans.

"I know how much they support us and follow us, so to be able to come here in our short little window to get face to face with our fans is important," he said.

While the Golden State Warriors shooter was ready to ambush some local basketball players on a nearby court, the weather had other plans.

Typical of Hong Kong's rainy season, the downpour forced the event to be canceled.

Curry showed off his piano talents, including his rendition of "Chopsticks" and Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles," with his wife/piano teacher Ayesha.

NBA star Steph Curry and his wife, Ayesha, at the piano in China
Source: CNBC
NBA star Steph Curry and his wife, Ayesha, at the piano in China

"This is going to be 15 seconds of poetry," he said.

He fumbled on a note.

"I can't play right now because I'm so nervous," he said.

"You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take," Ayesha Curry shouted back, challenging him.


CNBC luggage
Source: CNBC

Monday 5:45 p.m.

Who says TV news isn't glamorous? Seventeen checked bags of television gear later and we're off to Taipai, Taiwan. We'll get a few hours of sleep and it's back at it again tomorrow for the final and busiest day of the tour.

Correction: This story was revised to correct that Curry played "Chopsticks."