Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning and Heat G Dwyane Wade today formally announced a multiyear partnership involving the creation of a new athletic footwear and apparel brand called "Wade." The brand will serve as the centerpiece of Li Ning's int'l basketball strategy and be shaped by Wade's creative and strategic direction. The line will be available soon at Li-Ning retail stores and online throughout China, and is set to debut in the U.S. in ‘13. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Wade will serve as Chief Brand Officer, and be responsible for guiding the creative direction of all Wade products. Prior to the official launch of his signature shoe, Wade will wear two specially-created Li-Ning-branded basketball sneakers during upcoming Heat games, including two preseason games to be played later this week in Beijing and Shanghai. Li-Ning also has plans to launch a Wade kids footwear and apparel line in the future. CAA Sports brokered the agreement for Wade (Li-Ning). Wade said that he “expects the Li-Ning deal to continue through at least the remainder of his playing career." The AP’s Tim Reynolds noted Wade “wore Converse for his first six seasons, then Jordan Brand for the past three years.” Wade said, "It was a great nine years, but for me, it was just time to move on. I have certain goals that I want to reach and I felt that I had to leave to reach those.” Li-Ning "plans to auction off the sneakers" from the two China exhibitions. Reynolds noted the shoe Wade is wearing in China for the exhibitions “is not a true unveiling of his brand.” Wade: "What you see in China will not be the final product" (AP, 10/9).
TRADING COOL FOR GLOBAL: Wade said that he “weighed the pluses and minuses when considering whether to leave Jordan.” Wade: "In the end, the pros outweighed the cons. Jordan might have that cool factor, but I'm at a different point in my career. I want to be involved in building something." ESPN.com's Darren Rovell noted the exact financials are not known, but “it's a multimillion dollar deal and will last until Wade retires and into his early retirement.” CAA Sports’ Henry Thomas, who reps Wade, said his client will also get "significant" equity in the company. When it came time for Li-Ning Brand Initiative Dir Brian Cupps “to pitch to Wade, he explained to him the China paradox.” Cupps said he told Wade, "In order to be global, you have to win China. And in order to win China, you have to be global.” Cupps said that Wade's first shoe “will appeal to the growing Chinese middle class, as the shoe will sell for about $130” (ESPN.com, 10/9). In Portland, Alan Brettman notes the move to Li-Ning “is curious as Wade was a centerpiece of the Jordan Brand, portrayed in company-sponsored videos as a Batman/James Bond-like superhero.” He leaves the “comfort of Nike, the world's largest sporting goods company, for Li Ning, which for the past year has posted disappointing earnings.” A basketball shoe “designed in Portland for another Li Ning NBA player, Baron Davis, barely saw shelf space in the United States.” The shoe was “pulled from the shelves of Champs, a Foot Locker subsidiary and former Li Ning partner, shortly after the start of the 2010-11 NBA season” (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/10).
The NBA is “orchestrating its sixth China Games tour to enhance its largest market outside” the U.S. and the Heat and “some of their players hope to cash in on the opportunity as well,” according to a front-page piece by Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. The trip coincides with Heat G Dwyane Wade “entering a sneaker deal with Chinese shoemaker Li-Ning.” Heat F Shane Battier, who endorses rival Chinese shoe and apparel brand Peak, said, "There is great potential because people love basketball in China. This is not a false enthusiasm. These people are passionate about the game." Among the planned events is “the first Fan Appreciation Day on Saturday in Shanghai, with Heat players leading a youth fitness clinic.” Battier said it will be "a dog-and-pony show once we get over there." But the Heat players are “prepared to roll with the demands and distractions.” They understand “it's all part of the global business of basketball -- even if business in China can be over the top.” Meanwhile, Heat officials are “coming with an agenda of their own, with meetings planned with a number of potential corporate sponsors.” The franchise already has “a deal with Peak, and in December, it entered into a high-profile partnership with Tsingtao beer.” Heat President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth said, "It's an opportunity for us to bring Chinese companies back to Miami." He added, “I think there are some real opportunities for us to do more." But Woolworth said that this is “foremost the NBA's gig -- they're footing most of the bill for the trip.” The NBA reports that sales of its merchandise in China have “grown 800 percent over the past five years.” Heat F LeBron James' jersey “is the No. 3 best-seller behind Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/10).
SPREADING THE WEALTH: In Miami, Joseph Goodman in a front-page piece notes players such as James, Battier and Wade in between games, practices and league-related appearances “will find time to help market everything from shoes to soda to watches.” Heat Owner Micky Arison “hopes to foster new business relationships this week.” Arison said, “The Heat brand has become a global brand. A trip like this is great for us from a brand-growth standpoint, but not just ... for us -- also for Miami. Our jerseys say Miami, and we represent the city. It’s great international branding to take trips like this both for the team and the city” (MIAMI HERALD, 10/10).
HOPPING ON BOARD: The NBA China Games will feature Heat-Clippers matchups tomorrow at the MasterCard Center in Beijing and Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. They will have support from marketing partners including adidas, China Mobile, Emirates, Dongfeng Fengshen, Gatorade, Harbin Beer, Mengniu, SAP, Sprite, Subway and Visa. The brands are conducting a variety of grassroots events, consumer sweepstakes and media and retail promotions that will allow winning fans to attend the games and bring international exposure to the league. NBA China also will host the first-ever Fan Appreciation Day this year on Saturday at the Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai (NBA China).
The shirt sponsorship deal between EPL club Newcastle United and U.K.-based short-term loans company Wonga is estimated to "be worth more than [$12.8M, all figures U.S.] a year over the course of the four-year agreement,” although "exact figures" have not been released, according to Luke Edwards of the London TELEGRAPH. Wonga also has “decided to curry favour by reverting” to the traditional name of the team’s stadium in an effort to “deflect claims that it is not a suitable commercial partner" for an EPL club. Signs with the name St. James’ Park, which had been designated Sports Direct Arena, will be “put up in time for Newcastle’s next home game against Club Brugge in the Europa League on Oct 25.” The money the deal will bring will “give the club more flexibility in the transfer market and will immediately provide [$2.4M] million to be spent on their academy” (London TELEGRAPH, 10/10). A Wonga spokesperson said of reverting to the stadium's traditional name, “We listened over the last three days, and we saw what really matters to the fans" (PA, 10/9).
A MATTER OF FAITH: In London, Martin Hardy notes Newcastle's deal with Wonga was “engulfed in fresh controversy last night when the club's Muslim players were warned that wearing the new shirts would infringe Sharia law.” Under Sharia law, a Muslim is “not allowed to benefit from lending money or receiving money from someone.” Former La Liga club Seville F Frédéric Kanouté “refused to wear the 888.com logo of the gambling website” when he was with team “because of his religious beliefs.” He was “allowed to play games for Seville with an unbranded shirt but had to wear the logo on his training equipment” (London INDEPENDENT, 10/10).
RISING CRITICISM: The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Chris Tighe noted the Wonga deal “unleashed a wave of criticism.” The news “provoked an immediate response from R3, the insolvency industry trade body, politicians and trade unions” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 10/9). In London, Burrows & Caulkin noted English FA General Secretary Alex Horne “reiterated the association’s desire to prevent ‘inappropriate’ companies becoming sponsors.” He said, “The leagues have clear rules about certain inappropriate advertising for children. We are talking to the leagues on Friday about it” (LONDON TIMES, 10/9).
Packers WR Jordy Nelson and his family were in a "commercial shoot" yesterday at the Brown County Reforestation Camp for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s fall '13 campaign, according to Nathan Phelps of the GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE. The spot, directed by Jerry Zucker, “features Nelson on a Kansas farm (filmed in black and white Tuesday)” crashing into a tree “while attempting to catch a pass from his wife.” When Nelson wakes up he is “in the brilliant fall colors of Wisconsin where he meets a good witch and doesn’t want to go back to Kansas.” Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett said that the spot will “air both in the state and regionally next fall, pointing out markets like Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul are key to the state's $16 billion tourism industry.” Phelps notes the ad “could get a premiere in the Green Bay area next summer” (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 10/10). The ad “would be the first major commercial for Nelson” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 10/10).
The Univ. of South Carolina football team on Saturday during its game against LSU "will debut a new uniform from Under Armour, dubbed a 'Battle' uniform by the apparel company that provides all of the school's athletic gear," according to Josh Kendall of the Columbia STATE. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said, "It looks pretty good. We showed it to the players, and they like it. Of course, they like anything a little different and fancy." The new uniforms "include gray jerseys and gray camouflage pants" (Columbia STATE, 10/9). Meanwhile, in Boston, Matt Pepin noted Boston College will "wear a special alternate uniform" for its Oct. 27 game against the Univ. of Maryland "as part of Under Armour's participation in the Wounded Warrior Project." The uniforms "feature an American flag theme on the jerseys, helmets, gloves and cleats." A "'core value declaration' such as 'honor' or 'courage' will be printed on the back of the jerseys instead" of players' names. After the game, the jerseys "will be auctioned ... and the proceeds will go to the WWP." BC is "one of two schools chosen to wear the patriotic uniforms." The Univ. of Hawaii also will "wear Under Armour Freedom Initiative uniforms" on Nov. 24 for a game against UNLV (BOSTON.com, 10/8). UH after the game also will "auction off the uniforms" on its website, with "100 percent of the proceeds going" to the Wounded Warrior Project (STARADVERTISER.com, 10/9).