Tailored in China, for Team World
Updated: 2012-07-29 07:56
By Erik Nilsson, Wu Ying, Cecily Liu, Wang Zhenghua and Tiffany Tan (China Daily)
The record number of Olympic teams clad in clothes bearing Chinese innovations brings a "made-in-China" to "created-in-China" paradigm shift to the London Games. Erik Nilsson, Wu Ying, Cecily Liu, Wang Zhenghua and Tiffany Tan report.
While much ado has been made about the fact that Team USA's uniforms for the London Olympics are made in China, less attention has been given to the record number of foreign teams' uniforms not only manufactured, but also designed, by domestic companies.
Leading the pack is home-grown label Peak, which sponsors seven countries that will participate in 20 events in London, a major backer at the Games after Nike and Adidas. Because the design process takes months - it may take up to a year until manufacturing is complete - Peak had to turn away 10 countries that approached it for the 2012 Games.
Next up is Li-Ning, named after and founded by the Chinese Olympic champion, which sponsors teams from eight countries and more than 600 individual athletes from 17 countries across the five continents - one for every Olympic ring.
Other companies with foreign clients include Adivon, Qiaodan, Erke, 361 and Xtep. A far greater number of domestic companies manufacture uniforms, apparel and merchandise developed at home and abroad.
"The phenomenon indicates domestic sportswear companies are rapidly growing and earning a say on the international stage," says Jian Jie, senior sponsorship products manager of Li-Ning's sports resources products department.
"It also shows that brand influence becomes increasingly important in the sportswear field and 'made in China' is gradually transforming to 'created in China'. The alliance between a domestic brand and an international brand can internationalize Chinese brands and generate greater access to the partner's market.
"The alliance during the Olympics can also increase the exposure of the domestic brand, promote its brand value and further its recognition at home and abroad. Through cooperation with the foreign brands, domestic brands can also improve."
Li-Ning's International Legion sponsors Argentina's basketball team; Spain's basketball team; and the badminton teams from Singapore, New Zealand and Australia. The track and field teams from Zimbabwe and Eritrea also wear Li-Ning. The company also made Sweden's ceremonial uniforms.
It became China's first sportswear brand to sponsor a foreign Olympic team when it sponsored France in 2000.
Liu Xiang, deputy director of Peak's brand management center's PR department, says: "Chinese sportswear brands are gaining influence internationally thanks to an increasingly powerful China and the country's sports achievements.
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"Brands with rich sponsorship resources and marketing systems like Peak will receive more international attention."
Stavros Michaelides, public relations and marketing administrative officer of the Cyprus National Olympic Committee, says the reason the committee went with Peak is simple: "We got a better offer from Peak."
The committee's treasurer Damianos Hadjidamianou explains that Cyprus' delegation is small, with 13 athletes and about 100 people in total, including coaches and officials.
"That makes it hard for big companies to design our materials," he says.
Michaelides explains Cyprus didn't request specific designs for every team but, rather, a generic design for all sports.
Hadjidamianou says: "Not only the style but also the quality of Peak's uniforms is superb. The time of delivery is also very prompt. Whenever they say they'll deliver, they do it earlier than they say. That matters a lot to us."
He says Cyprus didn't even talk to another sponsor because the committee was more than satisfied with its uniforms for the 2008 Games and other international sports events.
The press attache of Team Slovenia Brane Dmitrovic says the committee initiated cooperation with Peak last year and plans to extend it.
"Extensive discussions have shown we share common views on the development of sport, we appreciate the same values and we want to provide the best possible conditions for athletes to achieve peak performance, which includes sports equipment," Dmitrovic says.
"The collection is a mixture of Slovenian national sports design guidelines and Chinese high-production technology. The design in green, blue and white represents three natural beauties of Slovenia: green - beautiful nature and landscape; blue - sea; and white - snow with mountains.
"This combination of colors is very unique and very noticeable. (It) also includes an outline of Mount Triglav - the highest Slovenian mountain."