Adidas goes shopping in China as CSL season kicks off with new club sponsors

adidas shanghai

By Paul Nicholson
March 7 – Signs that China’s football market is more than a passing fad have been given further credibility with Adidas’ announcement that it plans to open 3,000 new stores in the country over the next five years, with football being a key driver of that expansion.

The Adidas announcement came as the Chinese Super League season kicked off with three teams – Yanbian Fude FC, Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, Shandong Luneng Taishan – all announcing they had new sponsors.

China is Adidas’ second largest market with $2.5 billion in sales last year. The company already has 9,000 stores in the country. The new shops will be targeted at taking the Adidas brand to smaller cities.

Colin Currie, head of Adidas Group Greater China, said: “As sports participation continues to rise in China, we’re optimistic about the continued demand for Adidas’ sport performance and sport lifestyle products.”

Football club sponsorship in China has generally been through one major business entity taking the naming rights and a position in the club ownership in one bite, but with the speed of development of the football market, so sponsors have are taking up the opportunities.

Newly promoted Yanbian Fude FC, has added Zhongchou Shares, a Zhejiang-based investment company, as its exclusive back of shirt sponsor for the 2016 season. This is seen as the first step for the partnership which is expected to see further co-operation in terms of green agricultural products, sports tourism and real estate.

Yanbian already has an RMB 80 million ($12.3 million) title sponsorship with Fude Holdings Group, a life-insurance company in Shenzhen. Fude’s investment is being used to overhaul the club’s professional football operation.

One of China’s oldest professional football clubs, Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, has signed a sponsorship with car services provider, eHi Car Services, that covers a marketing package including brand promotion, club development and fan interaction. “As a Shanghai-based company, we are very glad to partner with a local football team. Our shared values and cultural background make us a perfect match,” said Cai Lihong, executive vice president of eHi Car Services.

At the same time Shandong Luneng Taishan FC announced a three-year sponsorship through to 2018 with Home Credit Group, a consumer finance provider. Home Credit’s logo will appear on the sleeve of the CSL club’s new shirt, a first in Chinese football for a sponsor brand to be displayed there.

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