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Marketer: Li Ning Co.

Agency: Leo Burnett, Beijing

China's Li Ning opts for American basketball player to share cachet NBA enjoys among Chinese.

[Beijing] Li Ning Co., China's leading local sportswear manufacturer, has tapped the National Basketball Association's Damon Jones to promote a new shoe series called Fei Jia (Flying Armor). In addition to appearing in ads and taking part in sponsored events, the Cleveland Cavaliers guard will wear Fei Jia shoes in every game he plays.

Mr. Jones is the only current NBA player signed to a marketing agreement with a Chinese sports brand, and the partnership could give the local company a stronger defense against rivals like Nike and Adidas, which are investing heavily in China.

The agreement "marks a major step in Li Ning's internationalization strategy," said CEO Zhang Zhiyong, and helps the company "advance further to be a world-class sportswear brand."

Creative by Leo Burnett, Beijing, stresses Li Ning's Asian roots (its founder, an Olympic Gold Medal winner, is well-known in China) in a spot called "Ink Ball." The tagline, "Only Oriental basketball play-style is our original style," is illustrated with a stylized use of calligraphy to trace a player's movements. The marketing campaign-which will also run in print, outdoor media and in-store-is supported by courtside initiatives and an online promotion allowing local players to create their own unique style of play. Bringing American basketball players to China, rather than sponsoring local athletes, has become a common tactic for sportswear marketers in China.

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