London 2012: Success as Li-Ning ‘Makes a Change’ in Olympics Strategy

指導者 / 總編輯 張蕙娟 摘譯者 / 陳萾 Posted by Abe Sauer on August 13, 2012 06:32 PM

運之後人氣暴增,隨即發展至海外市場。但在2010到2011年間,李寧的利潤下降了62%,這使它不僅無法順利攻佔全球市場,還要小心對付國內競爭廠商Peak 和 361度,以及Nike和Adidas…等國際公司。李寧意識到2012年倫敦奧運對它的重要性,
羽球選手─ 林丹、金牌女子跳水選手─ 吳敏霞和金牌女子乒乓球隊都給李寧帶來人氣。


No Chinese Olympian needed to have a better 2012 Games than Li-Ning. While Li himself was no longer competing on the gymnastics stage, he was competing as the newly reinstated CEO of the wobbly sportswear brand that bears his name.

With Nike making a high-profile move to sponsor gold medalist hurdler Liu Xiang and the wildly popular China basketball team, Li-Ning desperately a monster showing in London. It got it.

Named after China’s 1984 gold-medaling gymnast, Li-Ning has been a fixture of China’s Olympic teams since 1992 in Barcelona. But after an astounding boost from the 2008 Games in Beijing, Li-Ning was on the top of the world.

With more name recognition and grassroots pride and popularity than ever, the brand launched a massive expansion program that included international markets and a global branding campaign. Top tier athletes were sponsored, expectations were had and then raised.

Jump ahead two years. Between 2010 and 2011 Li-Ning saw its profit crater by over 62 percent. In 2011, Li-Ning was #291 on the China 500 list of corporations; this year it stands at 381. Not only has it been forced to scale back its plans for world domination, but it also now finds itself at risk in its home market against domestic rivals like Peak and 361°, but also with global heavy hitters Nike and Adidas.

Going into London, Li-Ning knew the stakes. A year before the games, the brand publicly announced how important 2012 would be for its future. Committed, Li-Ning signed numerous foreign medal contenders such as Spain’s basketball team. It also snapped up China’s top gold medal prospects in shooting, ping pong, gymnastics, shooting, diving and badminton.

One of those badminton stars was Lin Dan. In a spectacular final game against Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei that exploded Weibo and pulled in millions and millions of Chinese viewers, Lin won the gold. Immediately after, Lin pulled at the Li-Ning logo on his jersey as a sign of thanks. The advertising value equivalency was off the charts. Amusingly, Lin was so excited he tore off his jersey and threw it into the crowd, going shirtless for a few minutes before somebody thought enough to get him into another Li-Dan branded shirt.

Li-Ning had some success with its other China athletes in diving, ping pong, shooting and gymnastics. Diver Wu Minxia took gold while wearing a Li-Ning suit; the dragon-emblazoned Li-Ning table tennis teams also took golds.

Li-Ning’s message for London was a humbling one for a brand once in the lead in China. Aiming at rebuilding its domestic popularity, Li-Ning chose the role of the underdog, using the slogan “Make the Change.” In some of its messaging, Li-Ning even appealed to the nationalist fervor surrounding the games and China’s medaling lead swap with the U.S. Where Nike used the message about “you” finding your greatness, Li-Ning used the words “we can” as in “China.”

It’s noteworthy that Li-Ning’s messaging for its international audience was not about “we” and “change,” but instead all about “the moment.”

Of course, it didn’t hurt Li-Ning that Nike’s most high-profile China athletes turned into hard-to-watch trainwrecks. Hurdler Liu Xiang exploded his Achilles tendon before even leaping one hurdle, an injury made less heartbreaking and more eye rolling since it’s exactly what he did in Beijing in 2008. Then, China’s basketball team — the one with the fancy Nike uniforms made from recycled bottles — lost every game it played. On Weibo, this has not passed without comment.

The Li-Ning-sponsored Spanish team, on the other hand, made it to the gold medal game against America, playing an evenly matched competitive game against a collection of the world’s greatest all stars. Li-Ning even used the opportunity to poke a little fun.

The message pasted across an image of the Li-Ning Spanish basketball team, above, reads, “There’s no such thing as eternal greatness, only the permanence of change! Respect the challengers! London is only the first stop! Make the change!” The use of “greatness” was clearly meant to needle Nike over its Olympic “Live Through Your Greatness” motto. While Li-Ning did garner a good deal of positive microblog buzz, it still faces a significant battle from Nike.

Demonstrating the attitudes Li-Ning needs to change is a Weibo post from AN滴-暑期工作ing: “Just from looking at the uniforms I know the U.S. team would win. The U.S. team wears Nike, Spain is in the Li-Ning. Spain lost because of its uniforms.”

As Nike tries to democratize “greatness,” Li-Ning is trying to nationalize it, and in the process find the greatness it once had in its own country.