In 2002, the world watched as the United States Olympic team marched into the Olympic stadium. The U.S. team was dressed in uniforms made by Roots, a Canadian based sports apparel company. Roots began as a small company started by two Canadians. Being a Salt Lake girl and being fortunate enough to wander the streets during the winter of 2002, I soon learned that anyone who was anyone was also wearing Roots clothing. Roots stores filled the malls and the lines went out the doors. Of course, Katie Couric and Matt Lauer only wore Roots wear. This small Canadian company became an international sensation overnight.
With the 2008 Summer Games just around the corner, several Chinese companies are hoping for the same explosion into the international market. One company is Li-Ning who sees the Olympics as a once in a lifetime marketing opportunity. Li-Ning, named after the 1984 gold medal gymnast by the same name, is a homegrown Chinese sports apparel company. Li-Ning has been in fierce competition with Nike and Adidas to win over the Olympic market. It has opened 5000 stores and has enlisted Shaquille O’Neal as its spokesman. Somehow, knowing what I know about Roots, I think that if Matt Lauer puts on a pair of Li-Ning tennis shoes they will see their explosion. I know that if I were going to Beijing I would much rather come home wearing some Li-Ning tennis shoes rather than Nikes. I mean Nike is so 2004!
Other companies are hoping that the Olympics will also be their springboard into the international market. Some are still state owned Chinese companies like China Mobile. Others are hoping to become successful first in China then in the international market like Chery Cars and Dayun Motorcyle. Who knows after all the advertising this summer, next years Superbowl may be sponsored by YanJing Beer.