Li Ning – What is the Success Recipe of the Sportswear Brand in China?

Li Ning as a Chinese national brand, these two years to the rapid development of the state, but also on behalf of the Chinese gradually exhibited in the international arena.

So Li Ning as a national brand, what are the successes?

The Rise of Li Ning

Li Ning, the famous Chinese Olympic champion “Prince of Gymnastics”, retired in 1989 and founded the eponymous sports brand, which went public in Hong Kong in 2004 and has been the No. 1 domestic sports brand in China since then.

As one of China’s leading sports brands, Li Ning is a marketing, research and development, design, manufacturing, distribution, and retail company with a portfolio of sports and casual footwear, apparel, equipment, and accessories.

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As of 2017, Li Ning had a sales network of 6,262 stores across 31 provinces and autonomous regions in China. Data show that Li Ning’s operating income and net profit attributable to the mother company gradually recovered after the company lost three years in a row during the transformation period, and the compound annual growth rate of revenue and net profit attributable to the mother company was 12% and 507%, respectively. Nowadays, Li Ning is constantly transforming, following the pace of the trend, and moving forward on the road to achieve brand rejuvenation.

I have to say, Li Ning can be called the pride of the Chinese!

What is the secret of the rise?

  • Background of the rapid development of China’s apparel industry

China’s retail sales of consumer goods as well as apparel products are increasing rapidly, and from 2014-2018, the retail revenue of China’s apparel industry has increased year by year, with domestic apparel industry retail revenue reaching 2,310.8 billion yuan in 2018, with a compound annual growth rate of 13.1%, and is expected to grow at a compound rate of 401.88 billion yuan in 2023. Among them, regarding China’s sportswear industry, total sales reached RMB 371.8 billion in 2021, compared to 2019, with a two-year CAGR of 7.8%. At the same time, with the year-on-year development of China’s per capita GDP, it is expected that China’s sportswear industry will be further developed.

This also creates a foundation for Li Ning to take the lead in capturing new markets and become the pioneer of China’s domestic sports brands.

  • Sponsoring professional sports events at home and abroad, signing Wade

After China returned to the Olympic Games, the sports industry gradually became commercialized and market-oriented, and the market demand for sports shoes and apparel increased. Li Ning sponsored the impact of the Olympic Games one after another, ahead of several big Chinese sports brands (Anta, Hongxing Erke), and was a well-deserved pioneer of domestic sports brands.

In 2012, Li Ning won the CBA sponsorship and signed NBA superstar Wade as the spokesman. This practice has greatly improved Li Ning’s international popularity and online reputation, internationalized the star, so that more fans and even the world began to know “China Li Ning”!

  • Constantly transforming, aiming at the young group

According to Li Ning’s latest consumption report, Li Ning’s consumer group is mainly the post-80s, post-90s and even post-00s, the younger generation is the generation that must be read for Li Ning’s future development. Now, more and more young people like sports brands, has not only been limited to reverence for the sport itself, but more is also the pursuit of trends and sneaker culture. Li Ning is aware of this, so the characteristics of the late Li Ning’s products reflect an obvious youthfulness.

In 2018, Li Ning participated in New York Fashion Week, becoming the first Chinese sports brand to appear, and in 2019 Paris Fashion Week launched the “行” theme of clothing, firmly grasping the elements of Guochao, with the Chinese style elements of clothing, truly out of the Chinese own young design. This is also an important factor that more and more young people are willing to choose and optimistic about Li Ning!

  • Online and offline co-development

The most inseparable thing in China’s business map is the Internet, and a company that can’t make money through the Internet can’t last long. For Li Ning, it is undoubtedly a right choice to develop the stores online and offline at the same time.

Li Ning has opened several brands “experiences stores” around the country. The concept of sports experience stores is specifically designed to meet the needs of people who like to see the design of shoes in online stores, but can go to the store to try the shoes, the first time on the feet to experience the new, a deeper understanding of whether the shoes are suitable for you, while experiencing the different feelings brought about by different shoes, which is the advantage of Li Ning offline stores cannot be replaced.

Li Ning’s “Wade Store” is for those who have a love of basketball and habitually go shopping for sneakers. At the same time, there are many interesting smart devices in different stores that can help you understand your physical condition, such as foot type, sports characteristics and so on. He featured stores work in tandem with Li Ning’s expanded online sales channels. Organically linking consumers’ offline sports experience with their online social life creates a healthy and sustainable development momentum that is indispensable for Li Ning!

Read more about e-Commerce in China

How to effectively market your brand in China?

1. Make good use of Chinese social media – Xiaohongshu

Chinese people also have their own social media, such as “DouYin, WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu”.

If brands want to capture the market in China, they must have Chinese social media accounts as the first step before selling their products. For example, Xiaohongshu is a platform that combines the functions of “online live streaming, posting notes to sell goodies, and setting up Xiaohongshu store”, which is an irreplaceable main marketing position for many brands.

There are also strict steps for overseas brands to join the Xiaohongshu account – you need to provide the platform with several documents such as business license and certification application. After careful review, Little Red Book will send you a contract in Chinese, which will be stamped and signed by your company.

At the same time, like the medical and health care industry, as well as the traditional financial industry, the industry are restricted access conditions, need the appropriate documents.

2. Product innovation, taking advantage of the “Guochao”

Chinese people in the past are more willing to choose the international brand sports products, “Nike, Adidas” because of its good appearance design, and professional sports design, can meet the actual needs of people sports and look good sense of achievement. Therefore, for consumers who have certain requirements for sports equipment, product appearance and functional design are very important.

The application of the “Guochao” element is a combination of modern fashion elements and ancient Chinese traditional design concepts to create a design style with Chinese characteristics. This design is a break from the norm and a fashionable choice for Chinese people. If more sportswear brands use Chinese style design, this trend will receive the love of the Chinese market.

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3. Build E-Reputation

Your online reputation is an important tool for your brand’s success in China. Chinese consumers like to go online to find the story behind the brand and discuss whether the quality of the product is good or not. Was there ever any big news?

To do this, your sportswear brand needs to make a good impression with China’s search engines. “Baike, the Chinese Wikipedia, is an important tool for Chinese people to find out what’s new online in their daily lives. On the web, use “Sohu”, “GQ e-zine”, etc. to post press releases and forum discussions about your brand to create a good “online reputation” and keep your brand in the minds of Chinese people. It is crucial to keep your brand ranking up.

Read more about e-Reputation in China

Need a Local Marketing agency in China?

We are the Gentlemen Marketing Agency (GMA), a digital marketing agency based in Shanghai, China. We have been working in the Chinese market for decades and have created many success stories. From social media to online reputation and e-commerce, we are ready to open the doors to the Chinese market for you.

If you are interested in launching your sports fashion brand in the Chinese market, you can contact us.

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