SBD/Issue 204/Olympics

Reebok Banks On Yao's Return At Olympics To Boost China Sales

Reebok This Week To Unveil
Limited-Edition Yao Ming Sneaker
Reebok tomorrow at some of its 800 stores in China will unveil a limited-edition Yao Ming sneaker, "ratcheting up a series of promotions in the brand's largest campaign ever," according to a front-page piece by Jenn Abelson of the BOSTON GLOBE. The campaign includes billboards and TV ads, as well as a fan Web site dedicated to Yao and the "distribution ... of Yao merchandise to universities across the country." Additionally, five fans in several weeks will get "coveted seats to see Yao" at this summer's Beijing Games as part of a sweepstakes Reebok sponsored. Abelson noted the question for Reebok is whether Yao is "big enough to overcome the head start Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and others already have in this vast and fast-growing market of 1.3 billion consumers." While Nike and adidas in recent years "spent heavily" in China, Reebok instead "focused on the [U.K.] and North America for growth." Reebok officials "grudgingly accept that they face an uphill battle as they kick their Yao blitz into high gear." Reebok Asia Pacific VP/Marketing & Sales Dave Mischler: "Adidas and Nike are far ahead. We're trying to just get some real clear ownership in the second tier of brands." And Shanghai-based Zou Marketing senior consultant Frank Sha noted other brands have "put a lot more money and media buying behind Yao and Reebok is somewhat late to the game." Reebok sees capitalizing on Yao's return from a foot injury at the Beijing Games as its "best opportunity to position itself as a popular premium brand in a market of huge potential." Reebok in China is "opening a store every two days and the business plan calls for more than 1,300 shops over the next four years." Reebok also is "dedicating about 14[%] of its revenue to marketing in China, above the 10[%] industry average." Abelson noted adidas has "pressured Reebok to improve its performance in China," as under adidas' direction, Reebok "took its brand back from distributors and closed about 400 underperforming shops." adidas also has "pushed Reebok to trim its large roster of athletes and build its advertising around a few key figures," including Red Sox DH David Ortiz and FC Barcelona F Thierry Henry (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/13).

Watch adidas Spot Featuring Hu Jia

COMPETITORS: The GULF NEWS' Maggie Rauch reports adidas' Olympic theme, "Together in 2008: Impossible is Nothing," plays on "national pride and collective spirit." The campaign features athletes including China diver Hu Jia and China men’s national soccer team MF Zheng Zhi "performing with the aide of a sea of enthusiastic fans." The TV ads are "animated in slow motion and the billboard images are painted with a light stroke." Meanwhile, Nike has taken a "fiercely individualistic approach," as its "Who are you?" ads feature "close-up shots of Chinese athletes with their game faces on." An ad featuring Nets and China men's basketball team F Yi Jianlian reads, "I am a fighter. Who are you?" Nike's campaign "draws heavily on the celebrity of two of the country's most famous athletes," Yi and hurdler Liu Xiang. Nike also is using its "deals with national federations in various sports to gain access to Olympians." Rauch notes visitors to Beijing in August will see "plenty of the Nike logo as they pass several Nike stores along Chang'an Avenue" (GULF NEWS, 7/14).

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