John Yan: From Three Stripes to Swoosh 装备赞助,中国足球冲出亚洲

The public attention for Team China’s trip to Australia this January has been very high, even though the topics mostly are not related to the potential achievements of this team in 2015 Asian Cup. Alain Perrin, the French head coach of Team China, selected a reasonably young team, with an average age of 24.5 years old, and laid off quite a few settled international players. However, the stories were all about other issues, like a funny Now We Start departure ceremony held on the sports channel of CCTV, and more interestingly, the change of kit sponsor.

From Adidas to Nike – this is a big news story in the sports industry in China. It is strange why Adidas would abandon Team China after more than 30 years of cooperation. Some Adidas employees have even told me that as early as in the 1950s, Adidas had already started to provide the national team of China boots and kits, even if at that time there were no formal contracts.

The Chinese national team would definitely be another market breakthrough for Nike, the American Sport brand. Five years ago, Nike landed a big deal with the China Super League, becoming the official kit sponsor for all clubs in the top division; now they have defeated Adidas again on national team’s level. The length of this Nike deal is reported to be 12 years, ending in 2026, and the total value is rumored to be 1 billion RMB. Which is not that much higher than Adidas’ former contract.

Public feedback has been quite positive for this change, since Team China’s FIFA ranking has been closer to the lower end than the top. Before the first group match of this Asian Cup on January 10 against Saudi Arabia, China is ranked as the 97th best team in the world according to FIFA. Of course, this is the rank of the full male international team. The women’s national team is a bit better, having qualified for Women’s World Cup in 2015 summer in Canada.

Fans translated the Nike deal into Euros, and found out that for each year, the deal is worth about €11.5 million Euros, which if correct, means China would have a better kit sponsorship deal than Argentina, Netherlands and Portugal – which would be hard to believe. At least in Asia, this would be the most expensive sponsorship deal at national level.

The reasons behind Adidas withdraw include the fact that nobody wants to buy and wear a Team China jersey, therefore, businesswise, the cost is too high. After the 2002 World Cup, football in China has been a disaster, only recovered to a lukewarm extent in the past two years. An insider from Adidas China told me that a couple of years ago, the biggest order for Team China jersey was not even from China, but from the UK, as a PR company wanted to do some events in London, and urgently needed several hundred of jerseys.

But from Nike’s perspective, a sponsorship deal with Team China is not just a business deal, largely speaking, it is an investment into the future, and would enhance the brand awareness of Nike Football. They have been planning carefully in China’s football market, and did not get this deal very cheaply in comparison to the CSL sponsorship. This would be their second breakthrough in this football-sleeping nation. Invest at the low time, even though the figures appear to be quite astonishing. In Nike’s evaluation, this is still a cost-effective move.

China is leading Asia now, not on the pitch, but on their shirts. In the first match against Saudi Arabia, Perrin and his players will be wearing swoosh-dotted shirts – hopefully, their performance will deserve this new ranking.

John Yan is Deputy Editor of Contact him at moc.l1556258834iamg@15562588348002g1556258834naiqn1556258834ay1556258834, or on weibo at:










John Yan is Deputy Editor of Contact him at moc.l1556258834iamg@15562588348002g1556258834naiqn1556258834ay1556258834, or on weibo at: