[Beijing] The National Basketball Association signed a strategic marketing agreement last week with Li-Ning, one of China's emerging international brands. Founded in 1990 by legendary Olympic gymnast Li Ning, the company markets China's best-selling sports shoe and apparel brand, with 2003 sales of $145 million and it aims to compete with Nike and Adidas. The agreement lets Li-Ning feature NBA players in its ads, including local appearances, and use the league's marketing and media assets in China. For instance, Li-Ning basketball and brand campaigns, created by Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett
, Beijing, will appear on nationally televised NBA games in China and on nba.com/china. And Li-Ning will share its local-market expertise and widespread on-ground presence to help the NBA grow in China in the runup to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. According to research company TNSSport, 85% of mainland Chinese are NBA fans and six of the top 10 favorite athletes in China are NBA players.