Los Angeles Clippers point guard Baron Davis will wear Li-Ning this season, a big marketing score for the Chinese shoe manufacturer (story in Chinese).
The Li-Ning contract replaces Davis’s deal with Reebok, a brand that still has virtually no presence in China despite having Yao Ming in its clutches.
Davis’ signing with Li-Ning is notable because he is an All-Star who doesn’t play with a Chinese player or for a blue-chip NBA team. Since Li-Ning signed a deal with the NBA in 2005 to allow players to wear their shoes at games and other NBA events, players who put their name behind the brand have included Luis Scola of the Houston Rockets and Shaquille O’Neal, who was with the Miami Heat when he hooked up with the brand; and Lebron James’ teammate, Damon Jones.
Li-Ning is not known very well outside of China, but it has the biggest market share in the sports apparel category in the mainland, well ahead of Adidas and Nike.
It made a big push for international recognition at the 2008 Olympics, outfitting teams including the Spanish national basketball team, and scoring perhaps the biggest marketing coup of the games—a high-profile appearance in the Opening Ceremonies for CEO and founder, retired gymnast Li Ning.
By signing Davis, Li-Ning is confirming what those who keep track of China’s young basketball lovers already know—NBA fans here have gone far beyond Yao Ming worship, to become sophisticated followers of the entire league and all of its best players.
Li-Ning isn’t the only sneaker brand working with NBA players. Peak has long used Shane Battier of the Houston Rockets as the face of its basketball gear; and after the Olympics, Peak also signed Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks.
Tags: Baron Davis, Damon Jones, Jason Kidd, Li-Ning, Los Angeles Clippers, Luis Scola, marketing, Peak, Reebok, Shane Battier, Yao Ming