Nike & Adidas Strive to Localize Design in China
With the upcoming summer Olympics in Beijing and a growing consumer market, sportswear brands are fiercely battling it out in China to find the right mix of Western and Chinese elements in their designs. The Wall Street Journal profiles the efforts of Nike and Adidas, two of the biggest players who are experimenting with new design elements such as Chinese characters, images, colors and athletes to find that uniquely “Chinese” style.
Nike has recently introduced a new line called 1984, which commemorates the first year China participated in the Olympics under the Communist government. Nike is also playing on nationalistic sentiment with its slogan of èµ·æ¥åè¿ (“rise and advance”), a phrase frequently used to describe China’s development over the past 50 years. In terms of spokesmen, Nike’s face for the Olympics is Liu Xiang, the gold medal hurdler and one of the most familiar faces on the streets of Shanghai. Other sponsored athletes are the Milwaukee Bucks’ Yi Jianlian, tennis player Li An and swimmer Wu Peng.
Adidas, who has spent more than $80 million to become an official partner of the Olympics is the official outfitter for China’s medal winners and ran a competition to design the athletes’ attire. The director of Adidas Creation Center in Shanghai says that having a design center in Shanghai “enables us to be closer to the Chinese consumer, to understand emerging trends within sports and to design and develop concepts on shorter timelines.”
Balancing Chinese cultural elements with Western design is a delicate act that has resulted in embarrassment and nationalist backlash before in China. However, for sportswear brands in China, the risk is worth the potential reward. Terry Rhoads, managing director of Zou Marketing, a Shanghai-based sports-marketing firm, explains that the companies “will do whatever they can to tell the story, ‘we were the partner in China’s greatest sporting moment…It’s a huge battle.”
[via Next Great Thing]