SBD/Issue 121/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Yao's Marketability Remains High Despite Season-Ending Injury

Foot Injury Unlikely To Have
Any Effect On Yao's Endorsements
Rockets C Yao Ming's endorsement contracts "remain very much intact leading" to this summer's Beijing Olympics despite a foot injury that will sideline him for the remainder of the NBA season, according to Eddie Pells of the AP. In fact, the injury might have created "even more of a buzz" for Yao in China. Beijing-based sports marketing consulting company Helios Partners China President Chris Renner: "I think media scrutiny and fan interest regarding Yao's recovery will keep the Olympic buzz growing strong. The saga of 'will he or won't he' play in the Olympics will be drummed into the heads of a billion people." However, Reebok, which is marketing two Yao shoes -- the Dragon ATR Elite II and the Hexride Yao Ming Olympic -- for the Beijing Games, may "suffer as Yao misses the end of the NBA season, robbing the company of one of its best platforms to advertise." SportsCorp President Marc Ganis: "If the Rockets make the finals and Yao's not there, that's 200 million people in China who would miss out on the chance to see him on basketball's biggest stage." While Reebok ads "won't be a part of Olympic programming," other Olympic sponsors including Coca-Cola and McDonald's have deals with Yao that are "tied, in part, to the Olympics, and thus will see virtually no diminishing of the value of their investment." Renner said that high-profile athletes like Yao "often sign contracts that don't penalize them if they are injured [or] fail to appear in a specific event." But experts said that even if sponsors get "some money back because of this injury, Yao's long-term marketability isn't harmed" (AP, 3/11).

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