Chinese sports brands are in their infancy globally. But in China, where sport is hugely popular, sport apparel is a lucrative business. Li Ning, the company created by the gymnast of the same name in 1990, is one of the most successful. It trades on the Hong Kong stock exchange, has 4,000 shops in the country and a turnover of $300 million in 2005. Nike and Adidas in comparison recorded $385 and $600 million respectively for the same period.
Li Ning's ambition is to become one of the top five global sport apparel manufacturers by 2018, with 20% of its sales abroad. To reach these ambitious targets, Li Ning has secured a few high-profile contracts: it is one of the Games' official sponsors, it also provides jackets for the Spanish basketball team (world champions in 2006), and equips the iconic Shaquille O'Neal, star of US basketball team Miami Heat.
Basketball is very popular in China, with 300 million players and as many fans. China has also started producing international players, with Yao Ming, who now plays for the Houston Rockets and is sponsored by Reebok.
Li Ning has recently hired the powerful PR manager Ruder Finn to kick-start its expansion and profile at home and abroad. Indeed, competition will be fierce. Peak, its closest competitor in China, has already signed a contract to equip Shane Battier, a player for Houston Rockets, home team of Yao Ming.
Source: Les marques de sport chinoises misent sur les Jeux de Pekin
Le Monde, 02/01/2007
Review by Emilie Filou