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SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- Converse, the iconic American sportswear brand now owned by Nike, has taken its connection to Chinese music into the arena of consumer-generated content.
This week in Shanghai, Converse launched a music video and hit single, "Let's Play," performed by a leading local band, Queen Sea Big Shark, on its Chinese web site, www.converse.com.cn.
Both the song and video were the culmination of a month-long online contest involving 3,500 kids at auditions held in 10 cities around the country -- Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Shenyang, Wuhan, Xi'an and Beijing.
The contest gave music fans a chance to write lyrics and be featured in the video.
Over 70 indie fans were selected during the contest to perform the band's signature dance moves on the "Let's Play" video.
The video was created by Converse in partnership with Wieden & Kennedy, Shanghai. The agency's Nick Cohen and Nick Barham are co-exec creative directors. Wieden & Kennedy also work with Converse's parent company, Nike, in China.
"When Converse approached us to involve fans in the creation of song lyrics and a video we were really excited," said the band's lead vocalist Fu Han. "We love the idea of giving fans who share the same passion a chance to create something together."
Converse has a tradition of supporting original music in China, even though the mainland's independent music industry is still very small. On tour, unknown bands typically attract dozens or hundreds of people, not thousands.
But tying the brand into the local music world matches the brand's heritage in the West, where Converse has cultivated close ties with the music world for decades.
The Chuck Taylor All Star and other Converse shoes have been worn by music legends such as Sid Vicious and Blondie and members of the Beatles and the Clash. Converse created a special edition shoe for Kurt Cobain and one of its designs was inspired by The Who.
"Converse sees itself as an advocate and catalyst for creativity. As a brand, our job is to support the creative community around the world," said Geoff Cottrill, Converse's chief marketing officer, who is based in Converse's headquarters in North Andover, Mass.
Other marketers such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Li Ning and Diesel are getting involved in China's music industry too, but they usually partner with mainstream pop artists, not independent rock bands. Converse was also an early player, a gutsy move that may pay off long term.
Converse is already seen as one of China's "most influential" marketers in the use of music, said P.T. Black, a partner at youth marketing consultancy Jigsaw, now partly owned by Omnicom Group. "They were the first to have the guts to really do rock-and-roll, which every other brand said is too extreme, [but] now everyone is following Converse."
The U.S. company has collaborated twice before with Queen Sea Big Shark, an up-and-coming Beijing band with indie-glam style and an electro-punk sound.
In February 2009, Converse launched a campaign centered around Love Noise, a documentary film and integrated marketing campaign about one of the most quintessential aspects of the music world--the road trip. The film covered an August 2008 tour around China by two Beijing bands, Queen Sea Big Shark and the post punk rock band P.K.14., which was also sponsored by Converse.