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SBD Global/December 6, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Li-Ning's Exclusive Shoe Deal With Chinese Basketball Association Draws Players' Ire

Chinese Basketball Association players are “continuing to complain about the mandatory call” to wear league partner Li-Ning’s sneakers and “being fined for violations,” according to Sun Xiaocheng of CHINA DAILY. Li-Ning, which has spent $321M in a five-year endorsement with the CBA, "requires all local players to wear its sneakers in games although foreigners can wear other brands, with the logos covered.” Li-Ning has “allowed other brands on court if they pay a fee of $80,200 per player,” which is “five times the price" former CBA sponsor Anta asked for last season. Players have been “complaining about the league's over protection of the sponsor's rights.” Beijing Ducks G Stephon Marbury said, "Every player has his right to wear what shoes are right for his feet to protect his body and well being while playing on the court." Xiaocheng noted Marbury, despite his complaints, “followed the league's order and covered his 361 Degree sneaker's brand with tape" (CHINA DAILY, 12/4).

STIFF COMPETITION: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Fiona Law reported Li-Ning has “struggled in the face of competition from foreign rivals such as Nike and adidas, as well as lower-cost local brands.” The company’s shares have “tumbled 86% in Hong Kong from their peak in '10, and are down more than a third since January.” Li-Ning CEO Jin-Goon Kim said, “Five years ago, sportswear brands in China were wholesalers, not retailers. The focus was on growth, as opposed to merchandising and brand DNA and understanding customers. Chinese retailers need to be more focused on brand. Before, you had to be good at opening stores and taking care of channels. Now, it's a different game.” Kim added the company's endorsement deal with NBA Miami Heat G Dwyane Wade "speaks to the most important sports segment for China's younger generation” (WSJ, 12/2).
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