Li-Ning Makes Second Attempt At U.S. Market, Focuses On E-Commerce
Chinese sports brand Li-Ning is "making a second pass at the U.S. market and for now their strategy is branded e-commerce," according to AD AGE. The company's "first English-language consumer website" launched Monday, and it has "already picked up some popular U.S. e-commerce tactics, like free holiday shipping and a Facebook page." Li-Ning CMO Frank Chen said, "The U.S. is obviously important for any sports brand to have a presence in ... (and) in the short term the most cost-effective manner to reach that market, to get products to consumers, is through the e-commerce platform." Li-Ning has been in the U.S. since '07, and its "first attempt at selling products through U.S. retailers fizzled because of supply-chain problems." Independent digital marketing agency Acquity Group "sealed a joint-venture with Li-Ning a year ago to form Digital Li-Ning, with a $10 million startup investment." The international e-commerce site "will initially focus on the U.S." Along with Acquity and other partners, Li-Ning plans to "invest a combined $100 million on global marketing over the next five years." Li-Ning "sees its niche in the U.S. as an Eastern-inspired brand that emphasizes the spiritual side of sports, focusing on balance of mind and body over brute strength and power." The company initially is "selling products in three categories: basketball, running and women's fitness." The marketing campaign is still at an "early stage and messaging has not yet been fully developed." But as an example, women's fitness products will be "marketed as sporty yet still feminine." The '12 London Games will be "key in putting Li-Ning in front of consumers and driving traffic to the new site." The brand has endorsement deals with international athletes but is "counting on gold-medal performances from the Chinese gymnastics, diving, badminton, ping pong and shooting teams." Chen noted that to succeed in the youth-driven basketball category, Li-Ning also is "targeting starters on the NBA All-Star teams and is currently in talks with agents to ink a deal in time for the start of next season" (AD AGE, 12/19 issue).