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SBD Global/February 28, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Adidas, Nike Joined By Other Foreign Brands As They Look To China's Youth Market

Adidas may have closed its last factory in Shanghai, "but the athletic brand still means to stay in China in a meaningful way, hopefully in the hearts of consumers," according to Abe Sauer of BRAND CHANNEL. So far, "the brand is headed in the right direction," logging a 23% jump in China sales in '12 (to $1.5B). Adidas will be facing down Nike, "a stock Citi just upgraded based largely on the Swoosh's China outlook." Both brands are joined by other foreign names "for the emerging China youth market." The expectations and brand characteristics valued by China's youth have "changed and keep changing." Mary Bergstrom, author of "All Eyes East: Lessons from the Front Lines of Marketing to China's Youth" and founder of the The Bergstrom Group, said that China's market for athletic brands has "taken dramatic turns." Bergstrom "sees a new challenge for foreign brands" like Nike and adidas. Bergstrom: "The challenge for these companies is not to think in the same terms as they have in the past -- the competitive spirit that made these Western brands icons in the first place is out of date and place in modern China." Adidas Group Greater China Managing Dir Colin Currie said, "In China, we partner with a number of celebrities whose passion and character reflect our brand. For example, Fan Bingbing and Eason Chan are our brand ambassadors for adidas Originals, reflecting the brand’s values with their unique style and creativity." Bergstrom also warned that brands "risk losing China's youth if they do not engage in conversation beyond telling youth what is cool." Bergstrom: "They are looking for more than Western or Chinese celebrities, more than tech savvy gimmicks, they want something with personal relevance and true meaning" (BRAND CHANNEL, 2/27).
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