Business / Companies

New sponsor Nike sparks national football team revival

By MU CHEN (China Daily) Updated: 2015-01-21 10:53

The Chinese national football team seems to have changed their on-pitch fortunes with their first change of kit sponsors in over three decades. New sponsor Nike Inc is cherishing this victory over rivals and ex-sponsor Adidas AG, as it steps up its dominance in China's football market.

The new Nike kit was first worn on Jan 10 during a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia at the Asian Cup in Australia. Two subsequent victories against Uzbekistan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea saw the team achieve its best-ever start in the competition and gain a first quarter final place for 11 years.

The media and fans were quick to forget past woes, including a 5-1 thrashing by Thailand in 2013, and lavished praise onthenational team.

Some have jokingly pointed to the change of kit sponsors as the contributing factor.

Nike said on Jan 5 that it signed a contract with the Chinese Football Association to become gear supplier for all national football teams until 2026, ending Adidas' 35-year partnership with the CFA.

The 12-year deal is reportedly valued at 100 million yuan ($16 mil-lion) a year.

Michael Spillane, vice-president and general manager of greater China for Nike, said the CFA deal was an important moment for Nike's football business and the company's development in China.

Meanwhile, Adidas has been left out in the cold.

Adidas turned to social media platform Weibo to express its view of China's qualification from the group stages: "The strongest opposition is never somebody else."

Domestic media reported that Adidas attempted to renew its sponsorship contract but was outbid by Nike.

Adidas could not be reached for comment.

Song Hongfei, general manager of Wisdom Events of Wisdom Holdings Group, a sports events organizer and brand service provider, said it is too early to identify winners and losers because sports sponsorship is a longterm strategy.

"After sponsoring the national team for 30 years, Adidas has definitely benefited. The team has long been associated with the brand of Adidas," he said.

"Nike has gained an advantage over Adidas (with recent events) but what happens further down the line remains unclear. It is hard to say how much it will help increase Nike's sales, which is ultimately whatmatters," Song said.

Wang Zhuoqiong and Zhu Wenqian contributed to this story.

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