Li-Ning To Use Wade Deal To Gain Foothold In U.S. Market, Abroad
Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning through a deal with Heat G Dwyane Wade has “found the face" of its brand and the company "automatically becomes a much bigger player in the competitive world of Kicks,” according to Peter Walsh of SLAM magazine. The new partnership was formally announced yesterday and Wade will "serve in an official capacity as Chief Brand Officer and be responsible for guiding the creative direction of all WADE products." Wade also will have “a hand in marketing strategies and will be instrumental in selecting the athletes that he feels fit the philosophy of the brand as a whole -- a role that is usually non-existent with other shoe companies.” Wade said, “Having the opportunity to build my own legacy, an opportunity I didn’t have before with Converse and Jordan, was something I couldn’t pass on. I’m about making a change.” He added, “I had an unbelievable opportunity to do this here with a brand that is a big, huge brand in itself. It doesn’t have the ‘cool’ factor in the States just yet, but hopefully we can change that perception too.” Wade said of his new role, “I have to keep my eye out for players to help build this brand. I’ll be helping this brand even when I’m done playing and having my own brand similar to Jordan. … The NBA is about going global, they take us global and they’ve done an unbelievable job making our game huge and now I’m leading a global brand.” He added, “This is what you call a lifetime relationship. I have my own brand within the Li-Ning family, so hopefully my brand will live on for years if I pick the right players to represent” (SLAMONLINE.com, 10/10).
ODE TO LIFE: In Miami, Joseph Goodman notes Wade’s first design “is an ode to his life.” The soles of the shoes “feature initials of Wade’s loved ones, including his girlfriend, actress Gabrielle Union.” There also is a “Bible verse written into the shoes, which is a nod to Wade’s mother.” Goodman writes like “any American businessman venturing into China, Wade is taking a risk.” Li-Ning is “an enormous company, but its profit share in the basketball footwear market has diminished considerably in the past year.” With "shrinking shoe profits in the Chinese basketball market, Li-Ning is hoping Wade and his international popularity can resuscitate its image.” The company in the U.S. “has no image and it’s investing in Wade to possibly give it one.” Li-Nings “aren’t cool in the United States, but they’re also not uncool.” Wade was “given creative control of his new shoes, something Jordan Brand was never willing to completely hand over, and he’s hoping his designs will help carve out a space in the U.S. market” (MIAMI HERALD, 10/11).
STARTING A TREND? BDA Sports Management COO Bill Sanders wrote Wade’s signing is “clearly something more significant than any of the previous defections to the Great Wall.” Nike remains the “market share 800-pound gorilla,” but this signing is “more than an anomaly.” It signals “two key issues worth taking note of.” The first is that China “is for real" and the second is that Li-Ning “is for real.” Just a “few years back, many Chinese shoe companies would sign NBA stars and hope for the best.” Li-Ning’s signing of Wade “signals a quantum leap in their commitment to, and understanding of, the power of aligning with an NBA superstar.” Sanders: “This wasn’t about the money. This was about Wade’s commitment to China, and to helping a new partner move the needle” (ATHLETEMARKETINGGUY.com, 10/10).