The U.S. sportswear giant, a fierce rival of Olympic sponsor Adidas, brought four of basketball's superstars to the coastal city this week to attend the national finals of the Nike Secret Cage five-on-five basketball tournament in China.
The four athletes -- Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul -- visited Shanghai en route to Beijing, where they are key members of America's Olympic men's basketball team.
"Basketball is China's biggest sport," said Dan Mintz, founder and chief creative officer of Dynamic Marketing Group (DMG), which organized the event. "Having four of the world's biggest basketball stars at the culmination of this campaign is an incredible coup. It's a sign of solidarity and will galvanize a generation around their favorite sport."
The Secret Cage tournament opened July 5 in Guangzhou and moved on to Wuhan and Harbin before ending in Shanghai. Nationally, more than 1,800 teams and 15,000 people signed up to participate in the traveling event. It also attracted an enormous audience of basketball enthusiasts that turned out to watch the games. On Aug. 3 and 4 eight finalists in different age groups met up in Shanghai for the final competition. The finals will be replayed on national television in China.
The tournament was marketed by an integrated campaign including online and outdoor media and guerrilla marketing activities, also developed by DMG.
While in Shanghai, three of the U.S. Olympic team members -- Mr. Bryant, Mr. James and Mr. Anthony -- made an appearance to unveil shoes specially designed for the upcoming competition in Beijing.
The special line of footwear, named "United We Rise," was introduced to be worn during the medal round competition and will go on sale in Nike's retail stores in China on Aug. 8 -- the same day the 2008 Olympic Games will kick off. The name of the shoe line is connected to Nike's slogan for the tournament finals, "Zhan Qi Lai," which means "Rise Up" in Mandarin.
The basketball players also presented the team's new uniforms designed using Nike Swift and Nike Aerographics technology, which Nike is already selling in China.
The timing of the tournament and the fanfare around the limited edition shoes and apparel is the latest effort by Nike to undercut Adidas, which is eager to protect its status as the only sportswear sponsor of the games. Nike's well-known brand has been consistently but incorrectly cited by Chinese consumers as an Olympic sponsor, partly because the U.S. company sponsors some of the best-known athletes in China.
Besides National Basketball Association players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and a newcomer in the U.S. (but widely known in China) Yi JianLian, Nike sponsors one of the most famous athletes in China, track-and-field star Liu Xiang.