SBD/Issue 222/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Shaquille O’Neal Signs Deal With Li-Ning For “Dunkman” Line

Li-Ning’s Zhang Zhiyong (l) And O’Neal At
Announcement Of “Dunkman” Shoe Deal

China-based sporting goods company Li-Ning formally announced a five-year deal with Heat C Shaquille O’Neal to produce and market the “Shaq Dunkman” line of shoes and apparel in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Only 320 pairs of the Dunkman shoes will be available when the line is launched in January. Cavaliers G Damon Jones, a friend and former teammate of O’Neal, is also a Li-Ning endorser (Li-Ning). Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but in Miami, John Dorschner reports it is “certain to be worth considerably more” than the reported $200,000-300,000 Jones receives annually. The NBA claims O’Neal is the fourth most popular athlete in China, behind Michael Jordan, Rockets C Yao Ming and Real Madrid MF David Beckham. Li-Ning “hopes to expand into the U.S. market,” but its “main concern in signing Shaq is improving its position selling basketball shoes in the $1[B] Chinese market” (MIAMI HERALD, 8/15). Nike claims annual sales in China of about $600M, and while adidas does not reveal sales information, it said that it is “narrowing the gap with Nike.” Chinese sports-marketing firm Zou Marketing said adidas had sales of $385M in ’05, compared to around $300M for Li-Ning. Li-Ning has launched a Web site called “Shaq News” and will launch a print and outdoor ad campaign tomorrow, and O’Neal will visit Beijing and Chengdu this week to promote the deal. The company will continue using Jones in its domestic marketing, but it “won’t begin heavily marketing outside of China until after” the ’08 Beijing Games (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/15).

MENDING FENCES: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Fowler & Fong write the deal could help O’Neal “overcome perceptions of racism, which were initially sparked when [he] allegedly made derogatory comments” about Yao. O’Neal later said he was joking and that he was friends with Yao, but “many Chinese sports fans were rankled nonetheless.” During the announcement of the deal yesterday, O’Neal “drew snickers from the audience when he said, ‘I’m Shaquille O’Neal and I love China’” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/15).

POPULARITY CONTEST: Last year through November, O’Neal’s No. 32 Heat jersey was the eighth-best selling NBA jersey in China. The following lists the top ten (THE DAILY).

RK
PLAYER
1) Rockets F Tracy McGrady
2) 76ers G Allen Iverson
3) Rockets C Yao Ming
4) Lakers G Kobe Bryant
5) Cavaliers F LeBron James
6) Nuggets F Carmelo Anthony
7) T’Wolves F Kevin Garnett
8) Heat C Shaquille O’Neal
9) Suns G Steve Nash
10) Heat G Dwyane Wade

SPIRIT OF ’92: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s John Lombardo reports USA Basketball and Nike “will bring back apparel from the original Dream Team ... as part of its revamped merchandise strategy” leading into the World Championships beginning Saturday and the Beijing Games. NBA Senior VP/Global Merchandising Group Sal LaRocca said, “There will be a primary focus in recreating the first Dream Team from 1992, with every jersey from every player to be on sale with a November launch.” Lombardo notes a marketing deal with the league calls on the NBA to run USA Basketball’s merchandising efforts. USA Basketball and the NBA will split 10-15% of merchandising revenue generated from the World Championships to the ’08 Olympics. The ’04 Athens Games generated just $1M in merchandise sales (SBJ, 8/14).

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