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Qiaodan Sports countersues Michael Jordan for US $8 million

April 22, 2013




It’s kind of an oldie, but it’s still a goodie… Remember when Michael Jordan sued Qiaodan Sports for ripping off his name? Well, now Qiaodan is coming back with a lawsuit of their own against Jordan to the tune of $8 million bucks.

The Fujian-based company’s suit was accepted by a Quanzhou court on April 2nd after they claimed Jordan tarnished their reputation and delayed their plans for an initial public offering on the Chinese stock market. Qiaodan Sports, founded in June 2000, was approved by the China Securities Regulatory Commission in November 2011 for listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.



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Dwyane Wade to play in China post-NBA?

March 1, 2013



After a lot of talk about their lack of size, rebounding and and off-and-on play, the Miami Heat are rolling as they enter the month of March. Currently on a 12 game win streak, the defending champs lost only one game in February and have won 17 of their last 19 overall.

LeBron James, whose historic play has been the main headline generator in recent weeks, is obviously a major reason for that. But Dwyane Wade, whose supposed athletic decline was brought up by Charles Barkley earlier in the season, has quietly returned to dominance. How is this for a one month stretch: 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.5 blocks and 1.7 steals and a very efficient 53% shooting clip.

Maybe that explains why Wade, who readers should know signed a multi-year deal with Chinese shoe brand, Li-Ning, over the off-season, has a new nickname, “WOW.” (One that LeBron finds corny, on a side note.) The nickname is referring to “Way of Wade,” which is the slogan for his shoe.

Nickname aside, one thing is clear: For Wade to leave Brand Jordan and join up with Li-Ning, there had to be a lot of money on the table. Just how much? Jalen Rose, on the Grantland Network’s “Jalen Rose Show” with David Jacoby, passes along a rumor that Wade’s deal is worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars and that he has an agreement in place to play in China when his NBA career is over.



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New sponsorships bring new complications to CBA

December 6, 2012


Beijing’s Lee Hsueh-lin has been one of 12 players to be fined by the league for not wearing Li-Ning shoes during games. The fine comes as a result of the CBA’s new sponsorship deal with the Chinese shoe brand.

It’s been an exciting start to the season, to say the least. Amidst all the ongoing stories, however, the most important to the league long-term are the new deals that the CBA has signed this past summer. After inking a five-year contract with Infront Sports and Media, now the official marketing partner of the CBA, the league scored 23 new sponsorships, headlined by Li-Ning’s massive CNY 4 billion (US $721 million) commitment.

With these contracts comes an unprecedented windfall for the league’s 17 teams. Having previously received a comparatively measly CNY 2 million from the association, each of the league’s 17 teams will now have around CNY 10 million to spend on salaries, stadium improvements (heating comes to mind), and anything team higher-ups decide on. You don’t need us to tell you this is a boon for the league: money means better imports, more experienced coaches, nicer facilities, and by extension, elevated quality of play and a more refined basketball product for all.

Of course, all this good news does not come without its complications. More sponsors means more advertisements, from CCTV-5 broadcasts to on-court exposure. Whether it be the new Li-Ning apparel, advertising boards, or even the Tsingtao Beer cheerleading squads, you can be sure that these sponsors will make their presence known. Taking on these sponsors also means less autonomy for individual clubs, as teams are now left with only two sections near the courtside audience seats of ad space for sale. Apart from ticketing revenue and individual sponsorships like those on some team’s uniforms, all of the CBA is now dependent on the league to cover their operating costs, a questionable practice at best. Another problem is that of rising costs: even with this injection, with some of their revenue producing avenues cut off, teams may still find it hard to produce a profit.



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Dwyane Wade to Li-Ning looks like a done deal

September 10, 2012

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After spending the last three years with Jordan Brand, Dwyane Wade is splitting ways to join up with Li-Ning.

We wrote about Dwyane Wade possibly moving to Chinese shoe brand, Li-Ning, a few weeks ago after reports surfaced in the States that the two-time NBA champion had grown discontented with Nike and Jordan Brand… and now it looks like the move is coming closer to reality.

On Thursday, SneakerWatch wrote a report saying they have “received confirmation that Dwyane Wade will no longer be repping Jordan Brand. Instead Wade has made his way to Chinese brand Li-Ning in a speculated multi-million dollar deal.” On Friday, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel followed up with a report confirming the news.

Said Wade when asked for an official comment, “We’re still negotiating, until you get to the point where you decide which way to go. There’s many shoe companies that obviously know that I’m up this summer. But I still have the respect for and the obligation and the willingness to sit down and to the company I’m with.”

No official word can be given out by both player and company, but it certainly appears that this deal is done. But is this deal good?

The answer will depend on how you feel about Wade and his current pecking order in the list of NBA superstars. While he’s now been displaced as The Man in Miami by LeBron James, Wade is still one of the most recognizable players in the league and is far and away the biggest name Li-Ning — or any other Chinese shoe company for that matter — has gotten to wear their shoes.

Yet Wade has never been an elite shoe seller, and now on the wrong side of 30 with a playing style that likely won’t age as gracefully, Li-Ning’s investment could also be seen as a risky one, especially considering since they’ve seen sharp declines over the last two years.

Lance Madden over at Forbes.com has a nice piece weighing the pros and cons of Wade’s decision and is definitely worth the read.


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Dwyane Wade to sign with Li-Ning?

August 19, 2012


Dwyane Wade looks like he’s set to join Evan Turner at Li-Ning

Is a Chinese shoe company about to sign a major, in-their-prime NBA superstar? Well, if you believe everything you read on Twitter, it certainly sounds like it.

From a dude who knows a thing or two about sneakers, SoleCollector’s Nick DePaula on Friday:

Hearing from several people that Dwyane Wade will likely leave Jordan Brand and sign with Li-Ning. Huge shift.

The news comes after the word that Wade’s current shoe company, Jordan Brand, has cancelled his Fly Wade 3’s and the two sides are reportedly seriously considering a split, with the eight-time All-Star contemplating a switch to Li-Ning.

This isn’t the first time Li-Ning has dipped its toes into the NBA waters. Former and current endorsers include Shaquille O’Neal, Jose Calderon, Baron Davis, Evan Turner and Hasheem Thabeet. It would be the first time, however, that Li-Ning, or any one of the other Chinese sneaker companies (Peak, Anta, 361 Degrees, Qiaodan) would be able to secure a player of Wade’s pedigree.

For a brand that’s been struggling as of late, the addition of Wade may be what it needs to move past what has been a rocky and unprofitable period.

After the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Li-Ning aggressively expanded into the American market, opening an office in Portland, Oregon. But, their ambitions failed to come to fruition as a partnership with Champs Sports ultimately fell through as did plans for retail stores across the United States. As a result, net profit dropped 65% in 2011 and the company was forced to close down its Portland office last February. The company has since relocated to Chicago, where they are in the process of building a strategy that will focus on e-commerce over retail.

Apparently, that strategy built around a top-10 NBA player as well. Wade, although not an elite sneaker seller, still commands respect in the American shoe market and would increase Li-Ning’s credibility among consumers in the American market. In China, he’s a clear second behind LeBron James in the Miami Heat pecking order, but Wade is still a huge name out here and an agreement with Li-Ning would certainly generate some buzz in the PRC. He’s put in work over in the Chinese market over the last few years, coming over to travel the country on summer promotional tours with Brand Jordan. His name has further been enhanced in China from starring on the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal American squad.

For Wade, a move to Li-Ning could be more lucrative than sticking with Nike, who has James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant all overshadowing him as the brand’s centerpieces. Things would obviously be much different at Li-Ning, where he’d immediately become the front guy for a company based in the fastest growing market in the world. With the Heat threatening to build a dynasty, Wade — and his new kicks — would be in the forefront of a market that some people stands to make another shoe company, Nike, US $4 billion in revenue off of the team’s “not one, not two, not three, not four…” potential championships.

Since entering the NBA in 2003, Wade has been with Nike subsidiary, Converse, and Jordan Brand , the latter of which he has been with since 2009. His deal with Jordan is worth a reported US $10 million a year.

Wade’s potential signing marks another major event in what has been a busy and expensive summer for Li-Ning. In the Chinese basketball world, the company just recently paid CNY 2 billion to become the official outfitter of the Chinese Basketball Association. The deal starts this season and will last through the next five.


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Monday Night Chuanr

June 19, 2012

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Nighttime links served up proper with a hearty helping of lamb on a stick.  The beer is on you, though.
  • The 2012 Nike All-Asia Camp was held once again in DongGuan, Guangzhou province earlier this month and although we weren’t able to get down there this year, Mike Procipio from GeorgeRaveling.com was. And he did a great job breaking down a lot of the players, so make sure you go and get yourself familiar with some of the players who will be on the CBA senior team rosters of tomorrow.
  • The official schedule for the 2012 London Olympics has been out for a while, in case people are interested. We’ll be posting China’s entire summertime schedule at the top of the blog shortly, so keep an eye out for that. And when the Games start, you’re damn right we’ll be posting a TV guide for all of you non-Chinese speakers.
  • Interested in writing for NiuBBall? Go here.


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Li-Ning pays CNY 2 billion to become official outfitter of CBA

May 31, 2012


Li-Ning will be the new official outfitter of the Chinese Basketball Association starting in 2012-13,

Li-Ning will become the official outfitter of the Chinese Basketball Association starting in the 2012-13 season after agreeing to pay the league CNY 2 billion (roughly US $314 million) over the next five years, according to a report by NetEase. NetEase also reports that Li-Ning outbid rivals Nike, adidas and Anta, the latter of whom had held exclusive apparel rights since 2004.

Anta’s contract with the CBA ended after this past season.

If the deal, which has not been officially announced by Li-Ning, is consistent with previous agreements, the sportswear company will make all in-game uniforms and apparel, shoes and fan merchandise. The CNY 2 billion price tag represents the largest sports apparel sponsorship fee ever paid in Chinese professional sports.

Once seen as an emerging global shoe power, Li-Ning has been on a steady downward plane over the last few years. Shortly after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Li-Ning opened up a United States office in Portland, Oregon with the intention of becoming a global company. But, their ambitious plan, which included a failed partnership with Champs Sports and the construction of several retail stores in the United States, flopped as the company failed to get a hold on American consumers. Net profit dropped 65% in 2011, causing Li-Ning to ultimately close its Portland office in February among other big shakeups.

Yet, Li-Ning still remains committed to growth — both inside and outside of China. Though the price paid to become the CBA’s official outfitter seems high, it could be a solid investment if trends in years past continue. According to NetEase, the previous outfitter, Anta, experienced increases in turnover every year beginning in 2004. In Anta’s initial year sponsoring the league, the company experienced a turnover of CNY 310 million, a number that rose dramatically over eight years to the tune of CNY 8.9 billion in 2011. And with the league coming off record stadium attendance and television rating numbers, a heavy investment in Chinese basketball may reap rewards down the line.

In America, Li-Ning is moving to put Portland behind them. Their new division headquarters are now based in Chicago, where they’ve partnered up with digital marketing company Acquity Group to launch a strategy that will move away retail stores in favor of online e-commerce.

As somebody who’s worn some CBA stuff over the last couple of years — including the much famed super comfortable generic grey sweatpants — I have to say that Anta did a surprisingly good job with their clothing. Their shoes, a totally other story. But, their apparel was good quality and nice to wear.

The problem though: There wasn’t anywhere for fans to actually buy the stuff. Maybe this will change in Beijing post-championship, but in my almost four years living in the city, I’ve never seen an Anta store where you can walk in and have a lot of choices in CBA gear. You might see some generic CBA-branded gear, but you don’t see anything for specific teams or players. That may just be a regional thing, however because when I was in DongGuan both for the 2011 CBA Finals and the 2011 Nike All-Asia Camp, I walked into an Anta store and saw a lot of Guangdong and DongGuan gear.

So right off the bat, I think Li-Ning — if they want — can do a better job on that front than their predecessors. Their desire to do that will depend on demand however, which still remains relatively low nationwide. Whereas there is an established culture in the West of representing your favorite team, the same cannot be said in China. It’s changing in Beijing, where you’re bound to see a few people in green Beijing Guo’an garb on almost any walk inside fourth ring road, but generally China has a way to go in that regard.

On the business end, time will tell if this is indeed a sound investment for Li-Ning. In the short-term, lets just hope their sweatpants are up to par.


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Monday Morning Jianbing

March 5, 2012


Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links

  • Oak Hill Academy, the high school you should know as the one who produced Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo among others, is coming to China on March 7. The nine game tour will span three provinces in China’s southern region, Guangdong, Fujian and Guangxi. In case you’re wondering, the Bayi Rockets are not on their schedule.
  • As my fast-food restaurant owning friend’s wife, who knows nothing about sports or basketball, just proved without a reasonable doubt last week after her Lin Shuhao reference, Linsanity is still sweeping the China nation. But, “Marbury Madness,” which started in 2010 after Stephon Marbury moved from the NBA to the CBA, is arguably the highest it’s ever been now that Beijing is in the semi-finals.
  • Thanks at least in part to Yao Ming’s campaign to end the consumption of shark fin soup, a National People’s Congress member is proposing the central government take the dish off of all official banquets.


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Thursday Afternoon Tanghulu

March 1, 2012


Sweetening up your afternoon with a stick of Beijing’s timeless sugar coated snack and some links…
  • For all you people trying to lose weight, forget South Beach and try some Northwest Desert: Since arriving in Xinjiang a couple of weeks ago, Ike Diogu says he’s lost 10 pounds. (H/T hoopCHINA)
  • Everyone knows that players from the NBA come to play China all the time, but it works just the opposite as well. After being out of the League last year, Gerald Green, who played for a bit this season in the CBA for Foshan, has been signed to a 10-day contract with the New Jersey Nets. Who he is replacing? Andre Emmett, the guy who holds the CBA’s all-time single game scoring record with 71 points. Emmett signed a 10-day of his own with the Nets a couple of weeks ago and was the feature of a great story in the New York Times about the pressures and frustrations that 10-day contracts can bring.
  • Alex Linder chats with Shanghai’s American import Mike Harris, who says the best player in the CBA is Marcus Williams. No argument there, though the real Harris question that’s been on our minds here at NiuBBall is: How many years has he been wearing those shoes?


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Xi Jinping attends Lakers game, watches NBA when he has the time

February 20, 2012


Other than that he is going to be the next No. 1 in the Chinese Communist Party next year, not much is known about current China vice-president, Xi Jinping. A princeling born into Communist Party affluence before he was sent away to live in a cave during the Cultural Revolution, Xi has risen up the ranks on his penchants for business and not pissing people off. His wife, Peng Liyuan, is a nationally known singer who is widely considered to be more famous than her husband. He likes American war movies and his daughter, Xi Mengxe, attends Harvard.

And that’s pretty much what we know about Xi. By design, his leadership traits and politics remain largely a mystery. They’ll remain that way until afte he officially replaces Hu Jintao in 2013.

But Xi’s recent official trip the U.S., which marked his debut as the soon-to-be Chinese president, shed some more light on the man, including the very important news that he, like a lot of people in China, likes basketball and watches the NBA in his spare time.

Before putting the final touches on his five-day stay in the U.S., Xi took in a Lakers game at the Staples Center on Friday. Like most Laker fans, Xi arrived at the end of halftime and watched the entire third quarter and some of the fourth from a suite as the Lake Show beat the visiting Phoenix Suns 111-99.

To welcome Xi, Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, presented him with a personalized Lakers jersey. Magic Johnson and David Beckham among others came up to personally greet the man. And Lakers guard Andrew Goudelock had someone write a welcome message in Chinese to the Chinese visitor on his Peak shoes, which happen to be Chinese.

Xi’s visit to Staples, like everything else on his trip, was meticulously planned. Not that it matters — anybody who likes hoops is OK with NiuBBall. And Xi does like hoops. On his arrival in Washington on Monday, Xi told the Washington Post that “I do watch NBA games on television when I have time.”

But what makes Xi more than just OK around these parts? He originally wanted to see the Clippers, and not the Lakers, which makes this Boston born-and-bred scribe extremely pleased.

No word yet as to whether Xi actually plays. If he does, then he’ll be added alongside Wen Jiabao as part of a potentially deadly combo that could match-up nicely in a game of two-on-two against any other country’s top squad of high ranking politicians. Which means just to be safe, someone in Barack Obama’s cabinet needs to start getting some shots up.


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Happy Year of the Dragon from NiuBBall and almost every other foreign hooper in the US and China

January 27, 2012


Contrary to common belief, Chinese New Year is not a one day holiday. Which means, we’re not late in offering our Happy Year of the Dragons. In fact, the Spring Festiva is 15 days long — good if you like eating dumplings, bad if you hate being kept up by late night firecrackers.

But Chun Jie is about more than eating food, giving and receiving hong baos (red envelopes filled with New Year cash) or watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. It’s about spending time with the family (or your adopted Chinese family, if you’re a foreigner), reflecting on the year past… and watching commercials featuring various CBA and NBA players butchering the Chinese language in a good-hearted attempt to wish China a happy and prosperous New Year.

It’s a yearly tradition in China, one that we here at NiuBBall try to honor by posting online videos of the many New Year promotional spots that play in between telecasts on CCTV-5 and other Chinese sports outlets.

First, the waiyuan of the Chinese Basketball Association:

Steph, going on his third year in China, fluently spits Wo shi Ma Bu Li (I’m Marbury) while Aaron Brooks does a surprisingly decent job saying Wo shi Bu Lu Ke Si (I’m Brooks), especially when you consider that he neither knew the city he was living in, nor its pronunciation.

Next, it’s Wilson Chandler, who goes with the trusty xin nian kuai le (happy New Year). J.R. Smith follows with gong xi fa cai (rich and prosperous New Year). Both do respectably.

Four for four so far with one more Mandarin utterance to go. And with Marbury, the longtime China vet stepping up, a correct pronunciation-to-attempt efficiency rate that would make John Hollinger blush looks all but wrapped up. But Steph does the unthinkable, badly mispronouncing bai nian, bai nian (happy New Year) to both end the five-for-five dream and the commercial.

It’s surprising because Marbury nailed the same exact phrase last year. Why the step back? Was it just an off day? Is Steph finding less time to brush up on his Chinese this year in comfortable Beijing? Or is it because he’s focusing all of his efforts towards locking up the No. 2 seed for the Ducks this season, and a possible NiuBBall MVP award? Whatever the case, fans, teammates and coaches won’t mind because the latter looks like a very real possibility at the moment.

Foreign CBAers aren’t the only ones to speak Mandarin this time of year. Last season, the guys at PEAK, a Chinese shoe company, tried their best to give their season greetings to the Chinese masses. Their attempt to speak Mandarin at an even semi-comprehensible level failed miserably, as did their attempt to say their lines in unison. Their attempt to entertain, however unintentional though it may have been, definitely did not.

Not one to throw in the towel though, PEAK is back with a new spot for the Year of the Dragon, which casts a new lineup lineup featuring Kyle Lowry, JaVale McGee and Dorrell Wright. Too bad for us though, I can’t find video anywhere online. For now at least, this picture will have to do:

Lastly, it’s the NBA’s turn. Though David Stern has made the league’s development in China a huge priority over the last decade, this is the first season where the NBA held an official celebration of the Chinese New Year. The NBA and its Chinese broadcasting partners announced the first ever “Chinese New Year Celebration” shortly before the New Year. Over an eleven day span, a total of 21 games will be shown live in China with customized Year of the Dragon coverage.

To help ring in all of the hoops, almost every NBA superstar appeared in this spot that runs throughout the course of each game:

Ni hao. Ni hao. Ni hao. Ni hao. Ni hao. Ni hao. Boring. And disappointing. Because NBA players have a history of using the local language to wish their Chinese fans a happy New Year. In 2011, the league’s two biggest stars, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, let fly with some Mandarin and though it was positively terrible, the effort was appreciated in these parts.

So yea, we’re bummed at the NBA — not because their non-Yi Jianlian/Jeremy Lin players can’t speak Mandarin — but because they didn’t even give it a shot this year. At NiuBBall, as foreigners who have toiled in front of our teachers and textbooks for several years in an effort to speak Mandarin, we totally support our laowai brothers and sisters who have the willingness to give the language a whirl. No matter how poor the first try may be.

So from all of us at NiuBBall, Happy Year of the Dragon, and all the best in the new year!


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Tuesday Morning Jianbing

December 6, 2011


Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links


  • Good news: There’s more and more good sites with accurate information writing in English about Chinese hoops. In addition to our boy Andrew Crawford and his blog about the Shanghai Sharks, Shark Fin Hoops, NBA247365.com is also joining in on our small community by providing detailed recaps of every round as well as some assorted news/analysis when a big story comes round.
  • As we noted yesterday, the league’s leader in assists is seven-foot center, Mengke Bateer. Just making sure ya’ll know that.
  • After cracking down on player/coach behavior, the CBA is now setting stricter rules on the courtside “DJ’s” who are responsible for doing the PA announcing and the in-game music. Home court DJ’s are not allowed to “[verbally] attack the other team, comment on the referees or say anything during free throws and all selected music must be pre-approved by the CBA.” (h/t hoopCHINA)
  • We’re so, so late on this, but it still needs to be brought to your attention: Yao Ming is starting his own wine company. I’m sure Chinese are looking forward to mixing it with ice cubes and Sprite. On a related note, we’re calling the Huffington Post out for thinking Yao’s last name is Ming. A somewhat tolerable mistake in 2002 when he first came into the League, but definitely not in 2011 when it should be common knowledge that unlike in the West, Chinese last names precede their first names.


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Thursday Morning Jianbing

November 10, 2011


Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links

  • Want to hear first-hand about what’s going on in Urumqi with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers? Sure you do. Casey Owens, who is serving as an assistant under Bob Donewald this season with the aerial cats, went on Colorado Public Radio last week to talk about a variety of issues team and league related. Definitely worth the listen, first because there’s some cool stuff about Kenyon Martin, but also because the guy knows his stuff. 2011-12 will be Owens’ third season in China  — in 2009-10 he was an assistant under Donewald in Shanghai and last year he was hired as head coach of Fujian.
  • Want to hear even more about what’s going on with Xinjiang? The Bergen Record published an interview with K-Mart, who looks like he’s adjusting just fine to his new life in northwest China. Guan Weijia for Sheridan Hoops provides a similar picture.
  • Part of us is a little sad that the CBA All-Star Weekend is moving from our home base in Beijing to faraway Guangzhou this year. Key word: part.
  • Mark our words: J.R. Smith will score 70 points in a game… if he can stay out here long enough to do it.


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“Too many people” presents challenges for athletic apparel brands in China

October 14, 2011

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361 Degrees is just the latest Chinese sports apparel company to hop aboard the country’s domestic basketball market.

The bus. The 公交车. For some, it is a staple of everyday transportation that allows one to get from Point A to Point B with a balanced combination of efficiency and thrif. For others, throwing down one kuai (or 40 fen if you have a Beijing transportation card) to ride a bus is a nightmare straight from the depths of hell. Because in China, nowhere epitomizes the phenomenon of “ren tai duo” (there are too many people) better than the country’s huge network of public buses that are packed shoulder to shoulder and chest to chest with people of all ages, heights and smells.

In China, too many people equals about 1.3 billion; a number that is roughly four times the population of the United States. Quick to point out this unavoidable fact of life, ren tai duo is a common statement that often precedes and/or ends most conversations about various issues in Chinese society.

Why do Chinese students study six to eight hours a day for four years straight in high school? Ren tai duo, there’s too much competition to get into college. Why does it take an hour to get from northeast fourth ring road to Guo Mao at 4pm on a Tuesday? Ren tai duo, too many people, too many cars. Why is there a one-child policy? In the eyes of the government,  ren tai duo. (Interestingly, the problem afflicting the Chinese National Basketball Team is ren tai shao, not enough people.)

Ren tai duo has an obvious flipside though when you substitute ren (people) for xiaofeizhe (customers), which in turn is why almost every single industry in the world is trying to get a piece of the Chinese pie.

Sports apparel is one of those industries. Foreign companies like Nike and adidas have poured in heavy investments into the Middle Kingdom with the intention of putting their sneakers on the feet of China’s rapidly growing numbers of internationally aware, upper-class customers. Not content to let foreigners come into their country and corner their own market, Chinese companies like Li Ning, Anta, PEAK and more have emerged over the years in the hopes of selling their shoes at a lower cost to China’s many middle and lower tiered customers.

So far, the results have been mixed. For foreign companies, Nike chugs along virtually unimpeded as China’s top seller as  it continues to pump out impressive numbers. adidas, who experienced a post-Olympics slowdown, has rebounded somewhat in 2011. For a while, Li Ning had been on the up as well, at one point even passing adidas as China’s second largest seller in 2009. Feeding off of the already high demand from the scores of people who live in China’s second and third tier cities, Anta and PEAK were on similar trajectories  as well.

But over the last year, Chinese brands have experienced major declines as a result from increased competition and overexpansion. Li Ning’s downturn has been especially alarming, and experts think it could be a sign of things to come for Chinese brands in general.

Enter Nike. Perhaps spurred by the decline of Li Ning and other Chinese brands, the Portland-based giant is set on doubling its China sales by 2015“to reach a target of $4 billion annually,” according to Don Blair, chief financial officer and vice president, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal online.

As author Laurie Burkitt writes, that won’t be easy given that most Chinese are merely observers of sport and not participants. Creating a sports culture similar to ones in the West, where people play individual and team sports as part of their everyday routines, will be a challenge. But, Blair says that the brand will build off its already dominant hold Chinese basketball fans by pushing recreational sports like running and snowboarding to consumers.

Blair says Nike also plans to “take its gear into China’s smaller cities to sell sneakers and sweatbands to consumers who are just learning about the brand” as one way to boost sales.

Still, with the shadow of Nike hovering over dipping Chinese brands, Chinese shoe companies continue to try to get a piece of the action. Allured by the motto of ren tai duo, Fujian-based 361 Degrees is making a splash in the lucrative basketball sneaker market after having signed former PEAK endorser, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, to a shoe contract this summer. It’s the company’s first NBA endorser, joining the ranks of Li Ning, Anta, Lu You and the aforementioned PEAK as Chinese brands with NBA players on its roster.

361 Degrees delve into the world of basketball kicks serves as a reminder to the current realities of the Chinese market. The first of which is there’s still a ton of people in China who want to buy shoes. As Anil K. Gupta and Haiyan Wang write for Bloomsberg BusinessWeek, there’s still room for growth in China’s multi-segmented “large and very diverse customer base.” Even if companies like 361, Anta and PEAK are never able to appeal to China’s wealthiest customers, which only make up 2% of the population, there’s still a lot of potential with the other 98%.

However, that still doesn’t change the fact that there are a lot of companies trying to get into that 98%. The increased competition between domestic shoe brands has lead to confused customers who are finding it difficult to decipher each company’s target audience. The result is a consumer perceived blob of indistinguishable companies that are tough to separate from one another.

Our take: Nike’s success is going to depend largely on its success in changing the recreational sports culture of China. And seeing how one is almost non-existent in China right now (seriously, when have you ever seen a serious Chinese runner in Beijing or Shanghai), we think that’s going to be tough to do in four years. Still, Nike’s goal to double their sales is probably more bad than good for the Li Ning’s of the world. Up until now, Nike has been content to sell $200 shoes to China’s rich upper-class. If they can get affordable products into China’s smaller cities, consumers will be likely to choose the internationally known and highly reputable Nike over their generic Chinese counterparts.

In the meantime though, the bus that is sports apparel continues to get more and more crowded.

If you’re interested in seeing Love’s new kicks, 361 Degrees just released images of his new debut shoe, the Kevin Love 1. And if you’re interested in reading a review of that shoe, you’re going to want to click on over to Deadspin, who goes the extra one degree in delving into the brand’s overall slogan.


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Tuesday Afternoon Jianbing

August 23, 2011

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Showing you that jianbing can be enjoyed 24 hours a day while keeping your day going with China’s favorite and most versatile street snack and a batch of links.


  • An easy tip for people who want to learn more about Chinese basketball: Read anything that Brook Larmer writes. Keeping that creed in mind, go over right now and read his take on the Georgetown- Bayi brawl he wrote for the Washington Post.
  • Amazing, but true: Thursday’s fight might not have been the worst on-court incident in China this summer. As we mentioned in yesterday’s post about all of the different factors that led up to both benches clearing, the National Basketball League, China’s second tier professional league, witnessed a scene where an American player, Justin Gray of Guangzhou FM, chucked a chair into the stands at a fan after the fan hurled two full water bottles at Gray’s girlfriend seated courtside during an on-court scuffle between his American teammate, Jartavious Henderson, and an opposing Chinese player.
  • Keane Shum, writing for SLAMonline, eschews making grand-scale sweeping conclusions about the fight to talk about the social consequences in both China and America: “But here’s what the historians and the experts don’t know about sports: they don’t know that the next time I want to go play some pickup ball in Beijing, I’m going to think twice about wearing the Hoyas t-shirt I bought the day I graduated from Georgetown, and that if I’m ever back in a Georgetown gym, I’m probably not going to wear some of the China gear I picked up at the Beijing Olympics. They don’t know that Chinese national basketball teams have in recent years gotten disturbingly thuggish; they have literally pulled some of the same chair-throwing and kick-em-while-they’re-down tactics against Puerto Rico, Brazil, and now Georgetown. And that in this day and age, Georgetown fans and American basketball players everywhere are going to point to the incontrovertible YouTube evidence of this and assume that most Chinese basketball players are cheap and dirty.”
  • Duke guard Andre Dawkins talks to ESPN.com about Duke’s three-game exhibition tour in China, which ended last night in Beijing with a win against the Chinese U-23 team. Interesting that he says the team came with the understanding that Chinese basketball is physical, but definitely not surprising — after all, Coach K played against China in the 2008 Olympics and is thus very familiar with the playing style here. Just wish he had given that memo to Georgetown…


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